The fallout from last week’s decision by a medical tribunal that former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman ordered testosterone patches “knowing or believing” that they would be used by an athlete to improve performance has continued, with Sir Bradley Wiggins insisting that no rider at the time would have been “stupid enough” to dope in that way.
Speaking on his Bradley Wiggins Show podcast, hosted by Eurosport, the 2012 Tour de France winner and five-time Olympic champion said: “I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would use that [Testogel] for doping in that period, particularly given the amount of testing in that time: the blood passports, in-house testing, out-of-competition with UKAD [UK Anti-Doping].”
The Testogel patches were delivered to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester in May 2011, with Freeman, during a tribunal hearing that has run for more than two years, denying throughout that they were intended for an athlete.
Instead, he insisted that he had been bullied into ordering them by ex-British Cycling and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton – a line of defence the tribunal rejected, saying the doctor had constructed an “elaborate falsehood” in an attempt to “conceal his conduct.”
“What needs to happen now is to alleviate this assumption that it must have been for a rider, Wiggins said. “Not necessarily. It might have been for a staff member … it might have been for someone from another sport. Who knows?
“Was it a mistake? Apparently it was. Then it should be easy to substantiate and show factual evidence.”
One problem with that is it is the lack of records kept by Freeman, plus a succession of missing laptops that might contain such information, that makes it very difficult to determine what happened one way or the other – with the lack of documentation one of the reasons Ukad was forced to close its inquiry in 2017 into possible wrongdoing at British Cycling and Team Sky.
The 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.
However, 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.
Returning to the issue of the Testogel patches, Wiggins harbours doubts that the Testogel patches were intended for a cyclist, saying: “This whole charge that they were for a rider, I don’t think anyone was in that game for doing shit like that, or stupid enough. You’d get caught the amount of times you were tested.
"What exactly happened? Someone must know," he continued. "‘Oh shit, accidentally a load of testosterone gel’s come in.’ You’re jeopardising your duty of care towards athletes, people’s kids, husbands and wives. People who are in there, in this great British system which has won all these Olympic medals over the years, funded by public money – that is not good enough.
“Of course, that leaves this cloud, I understand that and it makes a bloody good story as well. But this one is a bit different. There’s something else going on and someone knows something, and I don’t quite know what the hell is going on. But it needs a follow-up now.”
In fact, Ukad has already opened proceedings against Freeman, charging the doctor last month with possession of prohibited substances and/or prohibited methods, as well as tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control. In the meantime, it has provisionally suspended him from all sport.
The MPTS hearing resumes on Wednesday when the panel will go on to address whether his fitness to practise as a doctor has been impaired following last week’s decision.
Simon joined road.cc 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.