Former British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman, who last year failed to appear before a parliamentary committee investigating doping in sport, has decided not to give evidence at the Jess Varnish employment tribunal on the advice of his lawyers.
He had been due to testify as a witness on behalf of the former track sprinter, who is seeking to establish that she was an employee of British Cycling and UK Sport when she received funding from them, rather than an independent contractor.
Freeman, who faces a General Medical Council (GMC) tribunal next February regarding testosterone patches discovered by UK Anti-doping to have been delivered to the National Cycling Centre, pulled out of giving evidence today on the advice of his lawyers, reports BBC Sport.
David Reade QC, who is representing Varnish, told the tribunal that Freeman had made a witness statement to the GMC under their investigation.
Representatives of the body, which regulates doctors, were due to attend today’s hearing due to the prospect that his “probity could be cross-examined,” Reade said.
"When we informed him of that, he was advised by his legal team that he should not give evidence," he explained.
Freeman was the one independent witness due to appear on behalf of Varnish, with her agent James Harper and fiancé Liam Philips, the former BMX world champion, also scheduled to testify.
British Cycling and UK Sport are mounting a robust defence including submitting 4,000 pages of evidence in what is seen as a landmark case regarding the employment status of funded athletes with potentially far-reaching ramifications should Varnish win.
Thomas Linden QC, on behalf of British Cycling, rejected the excuse given for Freeman’s non-attendance and insisted he lacked "the courage to attend," citing his failure to appear before a House of Commons select committee last year.
He also highlighted that the doctor had been permitted to resign from British Cycling last year due to depression and stress, rather than be subjected to disciplinary proceedings for his failure to keep records.
"Freeman's credibility is an issue. He had form for pulling out," added Linden, who noted that Freeman’s health appeared to have taken a turn for the better in recent months when the doctor was promoting his book.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.