The extraordinary fitness-to-practice medical tribunal of the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman will now drag into a third year after unforeseen circumstances forced yet another delay in proceedings.
The adjournment is the latest twist in this remarkable saga, which was expected to last for only two months when it began in February 2019. Despite multiple delays since, caused in part by Freeman’s stress issues and his evidence overrunning, it had finally been expected that Freeman’s QC, Mary O’Rourke would finish her summing up on Wednesday.
However, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service has confirmed that due to “unforeseen circumstances not related to Dr Freeman” there will have to be another delay before it reconvenes again on Saturday 6 February – exactly two years after it began – to hear closing submissions on facts for the doctor.
The tribunal will also sit again Friday 12 February before a verdict in the case is expected on 2 March.
Freeman has accepted 18 of the 22 charges against him from the GMC, including ordering the banned Testogel in 2011 and lying to UK Anti-Doping. He also admitted to abusing his position by persuading an employee of the medical supplier Fit4Sport to cover his tracks.
However, the doctor denies “knowing or believing it was to be used by an athlete to improve performance” and says he purchased it for British Cycling’s head coach at the time, Shane Sutton, to treat his erectile dysfunction, which Sutton denies.
On Monday, the General Medical Council summed up its case against Freeman by claiming that the doctor had worked with “sleepers” in Team Sky and British Cycling, who had previously used banned drugs, when buying testosterone to boost the performance of an unnamed rider.
Summing up the GMC’s case, Simon Jackson QC said Freeman had “lied at every stage” about ordering 30 sachets of Testogel in 2011 – and then had tried to cover up his “web of deceit” by setting up Sutton as the fall guy.
“Dr Freeman looked at what the riders wanted and he didn’t focus on what the World Anti-Doping Agency Code prevented,” added Jackson. “He was prepared to sign up with an incoming doctor with his unknown magic and he, on this occasion and other occasions, crossed the rubicon by ignoring medical convention to do what he thought would provide an answer.”
“The only logical and proper conclusion‚” from the evidence, added Jackson, “was that the intended use was a doping use.”