Team Sky have declined to comment on news that the medical tribunal examining their former doctor Richard Freeman has been closed before it begun, meaning a long-term delay before doping allegations can be explored. The Member of Parliament who led an investigation into doping in sport, meanwhile, fears there's a "concerted effort" to ensure Freeman never gives evidence.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service announced on Tuesday that, after more than a month of preliminary legal argument held in private, the tribunal had been adjourned. The case, brought against Freeman by the General Medical Council and which could see him struck off the medical register, will now be re-listed to be heard by a new tribunal at a future date.
The MPTS insisted it's in the public interest for hearings to be completed as quickly as possible, and that they're seeking a new tribunal "at the earliest opportunity". However, it is feared a new tribunal may not be possible until late this year or even 2020, given the schedule of Freeman's high-profile barrister Mary O'Rourke and the logistics of arranging a new panel and witness availability.
That means a significant delay in finding out about the testosterone patches that were delivered to Team Sky and British Cycling headquarters in 2011, allegedly "to administer to an athlete to improve their athletic performance". Testosterone is banned in and out of competition and, if the GMC can substantiate the allegation, it could represent a huge blow to the credibility - and possibly future - of Team Sky.
Dave Brailsford is currently on the hunt for a sponsor to save his team after Sky announced their backing will end this year, and any hint of an anti-doping rule violation would have no doubt increased the difficulty of his task, with a provisional deadline of May.
Team Sky refused to comment on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the team explained that they have not commented at any point in the process and had nothing to say on the matter.
Meanwhile Damian Collins, the MP who chaired the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee's investigation into doping last year - which was scathing of Sky and British Cycling's ethics and medical practices - expressed his exasperation at the adjournment.
Freeman had been called to give evidence in front of Collins' committee but pulled out, citing ill-health. He also declined to give evidence in person in UK Anti-Doping's investigation and the Jess Varnish employment tribunal. Collins suggested the tribunal adjournment signalled a deliberate attempt to suppress information.
"We should be concerned that there is a concerted effort to make sure that Dr Freeman never has to give evidence, and we should rightly question why that might be the case," Collins told BBC Sport.
Freeman, who wrote a book about his time at Sky and British Cycling last year, had revealed that he had been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, which he said prevented him from attending his DCMS slot.
The reason for tribunal adjournment was not made public, given the preliminary legal arguments - which can be raised before the GMC sets out its evidence - were heard in private. Medical tribunals are ordinarily heard in public but can go into private session in two cases: when a doctor's health is being considered, or in exceptional circumstances that outweigh the public interest.
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