Former British Cycling and Team Sky chief doctor Richard Freeman was permanently struck off the medical register on Friday after being found guilty of ordering banned testosterone. The Medical Practitioners Tribunal found last week that Freeman ordered Testogel “knowing or believing” it was to be given to an unnamed rider for doping purposes in 2011. The long-running tribunal said on Friday that Freeman’s behavior was “fundamentally incompatible with continued registration”.
The sanction came a day after it ruled Freeman’s fitness to practice was “impaired by reason of his misconduct”.
In its decision on sanctions, the tribunal said: “Erasure is the only sufficient sanction which would protect patients, maintain public confidence in the profession and send a clear message to Dr. Freeman, the profession and the public that his misconduct constituted behavior unbefitting and incompatible with that of a registered doctor.
“The tribunal therefore determined that Dr. Freeman’s name be erased from the medical register.”
This means he will no longer be able to work as a doctor in the UK. Freeman, 61, had previously admitted 18 of 22 charges against him but denied the central charge regarding the purpose of the Testogel order.
A central plank of his defense was that he ordered the testosterone to treat former performance director Shane Sutton’s erectile dysfunction — something the Australian vehemently denied while giving evidence in 2019.
In its ruling last week the tribunal said it “did not believe he ordered the Testogel for Mr. Sutton”.
There has been a frenzy of questions about who the drug was intended for and who else might have known about it.
Former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins has called for a fresh probe into the scandal, which is a major blow to the reputation of one of Britain’s flagship Olympic sports. Freeman, who was simultaneously employed by British Cycling and Team Sky — now Ineos Grenadiers — between 2009 and 2015, resigned from British Cycling in 2017 because of ill-health. He had already left Team Sky. He spoke about his shock at last week’s verdict that he had doped a rider in an interview with Britain’s Mail on Sunday.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said, referring to the tribunal ruling. “I have never doped a rider in my life. I’m still to see any evidence of who this rider supposedly was.”
Freeman is also facing two UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) charges regarding the ordering of the testosterone.
The doctor has been at the center of a number of controversies. He took delivery of a mystery package at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race in France, the contents of which remain unconfirmed despite a UKAD investigation that lasted 14 months.
Freeman insisted the package contained a legal decongestant. And he applied for controversial therapeutic use exemptions granted to Wiggins for the powerful anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone before a number of races.
British Cycling, Team Sky (now Ineos) and Wiggins have always denied wrongdoing.
Freeman is currently working as a family doctor as part of the coronavirus vaccination program.
The tribunal will now decide whether to impose the sanction immediately or allow him to continue working during a 28-day period in which he has the right of appeal.
RBA/AFP Photo Bettini