Shane Sutton: Freeman case has cast a shadow over Team Sky and British Cycling
‘I was used as a scapegoat’ says former coach
Shane Sutton has released a statement following the news that former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman has been found guilty of ordering testosterone “knowing or believing” that it was for the benefit of a rider to enhance their performance.
The Testogel order was made in 2011 and although the identity of the rider has not been made public, a 46-page verdict was handed down by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPTS) on Friday with the body stating that Freeman had tried to conceal his actions and that he had acted dishonestly.
“The tribunal had found that you, Dr Freeman placed the order, and obtained the Testogel, knowing or believing it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance. The motive for your action was to conceal a conduct,” the chair of the MPTS, Neil Dalton said, according to the Guardian.
During the hearing Freeman claimed the Testogel was intended for Sutton – who at the time was the head coach at British Cycling and employed as Dave Brailsford’s number two at Team Sky.
Freeman claimed that the doping product was ordered to help treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. During the hearing Sutton denied this and claimed Freeman was lying. The MPTS deemed that Sutton was a credible witness in its detailed verdict.
In 2019, Sutton famously stormed out of the hearing after being accused of being 'a doper' and 'a serial liar'. When Freeman’s legal team questioned Sutton he hit back, saying: "Now who’s lying? You. I’m sorry but you’re lying through your back teeth and so is your client. I can look you in the eye and swear on my three-year-old daughter’s life, I never ordered it." When pushed about allegations of erectile dysfunction, Sutton hit back, reportedly saying: "You are telling the press I can’t get a hard on - my wife wants to testify that you are a bloody liar."
"I’ve spent two days waiting to come up here. I’ve come and told the truth. I’ve taken your bullying, your gutter tactics in the press. You've accused me of all kinds of things. I’m going to leave now. I don’t need to go through this shit fight," Sutton was reported as saying, attacking Freeman, who was sat near him but behind a screen after being deemed to be a vulnerable witness.
"The head of BC wanted him out, he turned up to work several times drunk, he was like a Scarlet Pimpernel. I had two critical cases when I couldn’t get hold of him."
"You’re spineless individual," Sutton directed at Freeman.
Sutton’s tone was somewhat different on Friday after the verdict was announced.
“I'm saddened by the whole affair,” Sutton said in a statement published on the Daily Mail following the verdict.
"I feel for the doctor; that he ever got into this situation, and I remain disappointed that I was used as a scapegoat. It has caused great pain to both me and my family. But it also saddens me that this episode has cast a huge shadow over the success we enjoyed, both at Team Sky and British Cycling.
"I'd like to stress that neither I nor Sir Dave Brailsford knew about the testosterone order. But I think it's important to find out who the doctor ordered it for. Hopefully that will emerge from the investigation by UK Anti-Doping."
In relation to Freeman's claim that the drug was for Sutton and that the coach had bullied him into making the order, the tribunal found his story both dishonest and 'without innocent explanation'.
The full verdict stated: "Overall, then, taking all those factors into account, and bearing in mind the breadth of Dr Freeman’s dishonesty and the number of people he had pulled into it (Ms Meats, Dr Peters and Mr Sutton), the Tribunal found his conduct incapable of innocent explanation. It was clear that, on the balance of probabilities, the inference could properly be drawn that when Dr Freeman placed the order and obtained the Testogel, he knew or believed it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance."
The hearing will resume on March 17 when it will consider whether Freeman's fitness to practice is impaired.
Freeman, who resigned from British Cycling in 2017 also faces two anti-doping charges brought against him by UK Anti-Doping. That case is set to conclude in May of this year with Freeman facing a possible four-year ban if found guilty.
Sutton stepped down from his role at British Cycling in 2017 amid sexism and discrimination.
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.