Lawyers acting for Doctor Richard Freeman have sought a fresh adjournment to his medical tribunal to enable him to help with the rollout of vaccinations for COVID-19 – but the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) rejected the request, saying it was not “proportionate or in the interests of justice.”
The BBC’s Dan Roan reports that the General Medical Council (GMC), which brought the proceedings against the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor, had “strongly opposed” the attempt to secure a further adjournment.
Freeman has admitted 18 of the 22 charges against him, but denies the central one of having ordered 30 sachets of Testogel testosterone patches for delivery to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester in 2011 “knowing or believing” that they were intended for a rider.
Instead, he claims that he was bullied into ordering them by former British Cycling coach Shane Sutton, who Freeman insists was suffering from erectile dysfunction – something the Australian vehemently denies.
The hearing is due to reconvene on Friday for closing statements from the GMC and Freeman’s lawyers, who asked for an adjournment last week due to the NHS surgery where he now practises asking Freeman to help give vaccinations against the coronavirus.
They told the MPTS: “We strongly believe that the Covid crisis position should take precedence.”
In rejecting the request for what it termed “in effect … an open-ended adjournment,” the MPTS said that a further delay would mean the hearing “"not concluding until sometime in autumn 2021 at the earliest.”
The MPTS added: “While it is undoubtedly important that Dr Freeman carries out his professional obligations to participate in the Covid-19 vaccination programme … it is entirely possible and not unfair for closing submissions to be delivered effectively by both parties in his absence.”
A spokesperson for the GMC commented: “We appreciate the pressure on doctors and health services at this challenging time. But we're mindful delayed decisions cause additional stress and we need to take a balanced approach.
“Flexible arrangements are in place so that the doctor's presence is not necessary at this stage of the hearing. This means he can continue to work while representatives make submissions on his behalf.”
The hearing has been running since February 2019, and was subsequently adjourned due to concerns over Freeman’s mental health.
Assuming there is no further delay, a decision is expected in March, with the doctor potentially being barred from practising medicine when the tribunal makes its decision.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.