UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has announced today that Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor at the centre of a lengthy storm concerning alleged doping on both teams, has been banned from all sports for four years for violating its rules by taking possession of Testogel for unnamed riders, as well as lying to UKAD.
UKAD, the organisation responsible for protecting sport in the United Kingdom from doping, said that "by way of a decision of the independent National Anti-Doping Panel in July 2023", Freeman will receive a four-year ban from sport.
Investigators uncovered that a delivery of 30 Testogel sachets had been made to British Cycling’s Headquarters, at the Manchester Velodrome in May 2011, which Freeman was found to be in possession of. UKAD said that he had committed the Anti-Doping Rule Violations of 'Possession of a Prohibited Substance', and on two distinct occasions, of 'Tampering'. The investigation began back in September 2016, when UKAD received information that a possible anti-violation may have been committed by Team Sky at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The violation concerned the contents of a package delivered to Freeman at the end of the race, now infamously known as the 'jiffy bag'.
Testogel is a prescription-only medication that contains the banned substance testosterone which, under the UK Anti-Doping Rules, is prohibited at all times. Each of the violations proved by UKAD in its proceedings before the independent National Anti-Doping Panel concern this Testogel delivery.
The independent tribunal was "comfortably satisfied" that Freeman had "intended to make available to one or more of his athletes the Prohibited Substance delivered to the Manchester Velodrome".
While Dr Freeman had accepted that he had lied to UKAD about returning the Testogel to the supplier, he maintained that the testogel was ordered for a non-rider member of staff. UKAD foud this not to be the case, proving that Freeman was in possession of the prohibited substance "in connection with an Athlete, Event or training."
The tribunal found that UKAD had also proved the second Tampering violation against Dr Freeman whose "conduct subverted Doping Control".
The first Tampering violation concerned Freeman knowingly providing UKAD with false information that the Testogel had been returned to the supplier. The second Tampering violation concerned Freeman knowingly providing UKAD with false information that he had written to a non-rider member of staff requesting that they waive patient confidentiality and claiming that they had refused to do so.
Earlier this month, we reported that Freeman had declined the opportunity to defend himself against charges related to two breaches of anti-doping rules.
As already outlined above, UKAD’s investigation began in 2016 after it received information about a jiffy bag delivered to Freeman at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné. In 2016, Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford told a parliamentary enquiry that the package, taken to France from Manchester by a British Cycling employee, contained the decongestant fluimucil, to treat Bradley Wiggins’ hay fever.
In 2021, Freeman lost a High Court appeal in January against a tribunal’s decision to strike him from the medical register, when it was ruled that his ability to practise medicine had been impaired by misconduct. He was ordered to pay the General Medical Council's (GMC) costs of £23,000 after unsuccessfully appealing his removal from the register having been found to have ordered banned testosterone in 2011 "knowing or believing" it was to help dope an unnamed rider.
Jane Rumble, UKAD’s Chief Executive said: "The decision of the independent tribunal of the National Anti-Doping Panel confirms that Richard Freeman broke the UK Anti-Doping Rules. The rules are in place to make sure everyone plays their part in keeping sport clean and to ensure a level playing field.
"The outcomes of both UKAD and the GMC’s respective investigations were vital to outing the truth in this matter. This case sends a strong message to all athlete support personnel that the rules apply equally to them, just as they do to athletes, and that they have a clear responsibility to uphold the values of integrity in sport. When they fail to do so, every effort will be taken to ensure that the rules are enforced."
Mario Theophanous, Head of UKAD’s Intelligence and Investigations Team, who led UKAD’s investigation into Dr Freeman said: "This was a complex and comprehensive investigation to ascertain whether any wrongdoing had been committed, working with individuals who bravely came forward to give information to protect the values of their sport.
Following the announcement, British Cycling Chair Frank Slevin also issued a statement, reiterating its stance against doping and pledged support to both UKAD and the GMC in their investigations regarding any matters that may arise in the future.
He said: "We have stated previously that Richard Freeman’s conduct during his employment by British Cycling bore no resemblance to the high ethical and professional standards which we, our members and our partners rightly expect.
"We also acknowledge that many will be understandably frustrated, as we are ourselves, that some matters arising from this case and others remain uncertain. We once again want to take this opportunity to urge individuals with relevant information to share that with UK Anti-Doping."
Slevin added: "In the years since Freeman was suspended from his employment by British Cycling, we have made great progress in strengthening our provision of medical services to riders competing for the Great Britain Cycling Team. Being granted Care Quality Commission status in October 2020 – making us one of the first professional sport medical facilities to achieve the status – is testament to the progress we have made."
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.