Dr Richard Freeman’s case has suffered a blow after a medical tribunal ruled that the testimony of Shane Sutton will be considered, despite the former British Cycling technical director having stormed out of the hearing. Freeman is accused of ordering testosterone gel knowing or believing that it was to be administered to an athlete and claims the substance was ordered for Sutton. Sutton denies this.
Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman has admitted ordering a delivery of the banned substance testosterone to the National Cycling Centre in 2011 and subsequently trying to cover it up.
He denies that the substance was intended for an athlete however, and his defence hinges on a claim that former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton ‘bullied’ him into ordering it to treat his erectile dysfunction.
"Shane Sutton specifically requested that I prescribed him Testogel," he claimed in a witness statement. "I was bullied into prescribing it for him."
Sutton said that while he did receive treatment and prescriptions from Freeman, the Testogel was not for him.
When Sutton appeared at the tribunal to give evidence, Freeman’s lawyer, Mary O’Rourke QC, took a combative approach, branding him “a habitual and serial liar” and “a doper, with a doping history.”
She said she believed the two witness statements he had given were false.
Sutton ultimately walked out of the tribunal, saying: “She is accusing me of all kinds of things so I am leaving the hearing now. I don’t need to be dragged into this shit fight.”
O'Rourke subsequently argued that Sutton's evidence should be disregarded because he did not complete it and that the remaining charges against Freeman should therefore be dropped due to lack of evidence.
The BBC reports that after deliberating for a week, the tribunal has ruled that Sutton’s evidence is admissible.
"I am surprised by your decision on Mr Sutton's evidence," said O’Rourke. "It's not what I anticipated."
In announcing its decision, the panel questioned O'Rourke's conduct towards Sutton.
"Sutton's unwillingness to continue to be cross-examined arose directly out of his perception of unfairness and bullying engendered by Ms O'Rourke's approach to him, an approach he perceived to have begun even before he had entered the hearing room.
"There was an objective and understandable basis to warrant Mr Sutton forming the said perception."
A redacted interview Freeman did with BBC Sports editor Dan Roan in July 2018 will also be admitted as evidence after the GMC argued it was evidence of a "previous inconsistent statement".
After suggesting that the panel’s decisions about this and Sutton’s testimony were "legally flawed," O’Rourke also raised concerns about the length of time the hearing is taking. Among her reasons for doing so was a skiing holiday for Dr Freeman that was prescribed by his doctor.
The hearing continues.
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