Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Ex-British Cycling and Team Sky doctor ordered testosterone knowing it was for an athlete, rules tribunal

Dr Richard Freeman constructed an “elaborate falsehood” in an attempt to “conceal his conduct” says ruling

Ex-British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman ordered Testogel “knowing or believing that it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance,” a medical tribunal has found, in a ruling that could have major ramifications for both organisations.

Freeman had admitted all but four of the 22 charges brought against him by the General Medical Council (GMC), and had claimed that the testosterone patches delivered to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester in May 2011 were intended for former Team Sky and British Cycling coach Shane Sutton, whom the doctor alleged suffered from erectile dysfunction.

He maintained that the Australian – who vehemently denied Freeman’s claims – had bullied him into ordering the patches, but in its decision announced today, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service said that the doctor had constructed an “elaborate falsehood” in an attempt to “conceal his conduct.”

The tribunal’s chair, Neil Dalton, said: “In May 2011, Dr Freeman, the team doctor for a team of elite cyclists and a member of the anti-doping working group, ordered a doping ‘drug of choice’ for that sport. Upon its arrival he was dishonest about why it had been sent, removed it from the Velodrome, and it was never seen again.”

He added that the tribunal had “found that Dr Freeman has been dishonest in its regard ever since.”

There is no indication in the tribunal’s decision of the identity of the rider or riders the Testogel patches may have been intended for.

The tribunal in Manchester will reconvene next Wednesday 17 March to determine whether Freeman’s misconduct impaired his fitness to practise.

Last month UK Anti-doping (Ukad) charged Freeman with two anti-doping rule violations relating to the testosterone patches.

> Dr Richard Freeman charged with violating anti-doping rules

Ukad interviewed the doctor in 2017 as part of its investigation into alleged wrongdoing at British Cycling and Team Sky.

> Ukad confirms Team Sky and British Cycling will not face charges over Jiffy bag delivered to Sir Bradley Wiggins at 2011 Criterium du Dauphine

The anti-doping agency's probe was related to the contents of a package delivered to the doctor on the final day of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, and containing medicine for Bradley Wiggins, who won the race.

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 Wiggins' hay fever.

British Cycling was unable to provide evidence of records to back that up, and with Ukad unable to determine exactly what was in the package, the investigation was closed.

In response to today's decision, British Cycling CEO, Brian Facer, said:

I thank the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service panel for the time and efforts they have made to reach this decision. As a co-referrer in this case, British Cycling believes it was in the public interest and in the best interests of our sport that the allegations against Dr Richard Freeman were heard and examined openly by the MPTS. 

The verdict of the panel confirms British Cycling’s own findings that he had failed in his duties as a doctor and supports our decision to refer him to the GMC for further investigation.   

The finding that the 2011 delivery of testosterone gel was intended for the illegal enhancement of a rider’s performance is extremely disturbing. We leave any further action in respect of this to UK Anti-Doping, whose work will have our wholehearted support. 

The wider actions of Dr Freeman described in the tribunal fall a mile short of the standards we expect. Since suspending Dr Freeman from his employment by British Cycling four years ago, we have made substantial changes to the way we provide medical services to riders competing for Great Britain, amid much wider improvements to our governance which we believe now put us at the forefront of our sector. These measures include: 

The achievement of CQC status, meaning the Great Britain Cycling Team medical team are held to the same standards as hospitals – with regular audits of their work, similar to an OFSTED inspection

A Clinical Governance Committee which oversees the Great Britain Cycling Team’s medical team and reports to the British Cycling Board   

A new Code of Conduct for all medical and performance support staff  

An audited medical record-keeping and medicines management policy   

A new concussion protocol; now widely adopted by our fellow national federations 

The establishment of an Integrity Committee, accountable to the board, to oversee all ethical issues relating to British Cycling's work, including anti-doping, compliance and safeguarding

Cardiac screening protocols in a research partnership with Liverpool John Moores University; and   

A new Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy to include better education and early intervention for academy riders entering the programme. 

This is a day for sober reflection and we know that will be felt by the thousands of people who race their bikes in this country and love our sport, from the Great Britain Cycling Team to the grassroots. We also know that they will share our view that all those who work in our sport must adhere to the highest standards of ethical behaviour.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment


Woldsman | 3 years ago
1 like


Chris Hayes | 3 years ago

I find it hard to believe that Sky were playing around with testosterone.  It's surely one of the easier PEDs to test for.... and in micro doses I'd question its impact.  Maybe I just don't know enough about PEDs. 

But it's incongruous that a team hell bent on spending a fortune on marginal gains would risk everything on testosterone of all things...but then again it may not have been the team - just an individual rider - who, if he used it, clearly wasn't caught despite my remarks above

MattieKempy | 3 years ago

A bit of an inevitable conclusion, really. As previous posters have said, one question is for whom the testosterone was intended; another question which remains unanswered and seems unaddressed by the tribunal is how much of a role confirmed, notorious bully Shane Sutton actually did play in it. I can well believe, given the complaints levelled at Sutton and what we know about his modus operandi, that he could well have bullied Freeman just like he seems to have bullied plenty of other people around him.

EddyBerckx | 3 years ago

After all the crap he's been through and his obvious mental health issues why has he never just thrown them all under the bus and named the riders/coaches/management who are the actual ones to blame? 

Now he's on the verge of losing his job will that now happen? 

Or was this all a fuss over nothing? 

Will be interesting to see what happens...

eburtthebike | 3 years ago

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  After many decades of trying to get the BBC to at least mention cycling, at last they have.

EDIT: 5pm news R4; first Freeman, second the murder of a woman.  TV news; woman's murder, then Freeman.  Have they ever given cycling so much attention?

2nd EDIT; I've just realised that if a doctor involved in cycling lies it makes headlines, but when the prime minister does it blatantly and often, it doesn't even rate a mention; maybe the msm have got their priorities wrong.

Awavey replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago

well in sports news terms there isnt anything else happening at the moment so it ends up by default almost as getting the most coverage, plus it allows all those "ha we knew they were cheating all along" journos and soundbite politicians whove been sharpening their axes to grind for a while against Brailsford to take a pop again, which again ups the coverage.

Rapha Nadal | 3 years ago

Well, duh,

Dan Jestico | 3 years ago
1 like

Crucial unanswered question is, who was it intended for?

Secret_squirrel replied to Dan Jestico | 3 years ago

Thats the bit that doesnt add up for me.   I thought that Testosterone was so "old school" that no-one would be stupid enough to try to use it and that its relatively easy to detect.  Let alone someone get it supplied from the Team Doctor.

Has there been any suggestion it was anything more than a one-off?  Surely they went over his ordering/proscribing records with a fine tooth comb?

Sriracha replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
1 like

Ha. If only he had proscribed it! (apologies)

Maybe it was for himself? And the whole ED thing, it was about his own "athletic performance", he just couldn't confess the truth was so close to home?

barongreenback replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago

This is also the bit that doesn't make sense for me too.  That said, his overall behaviour and some apparent mental health issues mean that we're unlikely to get any closer to understanding what really happened.  The unfortunate consequence is that it casts a massive cloud over that part of the British Cycling era.

Geoffroid replied to barongreenback | 3 years ago

Testosterone micro dosing is still common. Justin Gatlin was banned for taking testosterone. One of the reasons for Alberto Salazar to be banned for four years from coaching was that he experimented with testosterone cream on his son, and used the Nike lab to find when his son would test positive.

Of Course cycling is in yet another new era now and all this Dr Freeman nonsense is from the past, and everyone should look away and carry on enjoying the show.

maviczap replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Thats the bit that doesnt add up for me.   I thought that Testosterone was so "old school" that no-one would be stupid enough to try to use it and that its relatively easy to detect.  Let alone someone get it supplied from the Team Doctor.

Has there been any suggestion it was anything more than a one-off?  Surely they went over his ordering/proscribing records with a fine tooth comb?

Same here, any of the riders that the interweb keyboard warriors aledge to be under his charge, Wiggo, Froomey when successful, would have been tested all the time, so any testosterone use would have shown up?

Compact Corned Beef replied to maviczap | 3 years ago

I'm not sure that an argument along the lines of 'if they were using drugs then they would have been caught' holds much water any more.

Nemesis replied to maviczap | 3 years ago
1 like

Are you all missing the point?
There are limits for most naturally occurring substances. 
So, if you have low testosterone you will dosed to the proscribed limit - "legal". 
Same goes for haemoglobin etc.... etc.... and remember Sky/British Cycling are built on "marginal gains". 
Gets a bit awkward if the testers turn up and you have dosed a rider too much (overdosed?! 😄). So that's when you get the hotel room numbers mixed up so the rider's levels can get back to the proscribed limit while the tester attempts to locate them while testing other riders in the team adding to the delaying tactics.  Or you forget to tell the testers where you are 🤷‍♂️
During the trial Shane Sutton dropped a huge hint by describing "pushing to the limit". 
I was amazed that David Walsh was taken in by it. 

Awavey replied to Nemesis | 3 years ago

I thought the blood passport was supposed to determine what your norm level limits were though, so it would be very difficult to constantly micro dose accurately enough so that the levels kept within those limits during random testing, without raising flags.

youd have to wandering around with something similiar to diabetics with those insulin level meters wouldnt you for it to work ?

Nemesis replied to Awavey | 3 years ago

Of course you'd get your levels up before you were tested for your passport. It wouldn't surprise me if they haven't perfected the micro dosing. If you look at the lengths that US Postal went to, secret rooms etc.... why would you leave the level of useful, naturally occurring substances to chance?

I might add that this is not my experience but from a long chat with a BC coach some time ago.... 

Latest Comments