Dr Richard Freeman tribunal: Dr Steve Peters doubts testosterone claims

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman outside the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester
Dr Richard Freeman denies ordering testosterone with the knowledge it would be used to enhance athletic performance

British Cycling's former head of medicine has cast doubt on Dr Richard Freeman's claims that testosterone was delivered to its headquarters on behalf of Shane Sutton, a tribunal has heard.

Dr Steve Peters told Freeman's fitness to practise hearing that if 30 sachets of Testogel were ordered for Sutton in 2011, he would have known about it.

Ex-British Cycling technical director Sutton has denied it was for him.

Dr Freeman has claimed it was to treat Sutton's alleged erectile dysfunction.

At the hearing on Thursday, Dr Peters spoke of Sutton boasting about the number of partners he had and how testosterone could help his sexual performance, but he said the drug was more likely to be for Dr Freeman.

"It feels like I'm being asked being to solve the crime," Dr Peters said.

"I have a man who's lied to me, another man who is untrustworthy. It's much more likely [Freeman] has used this for himself and there are reasons for that, which I don't want to go into.

"Freeman has tried to cover his tracks and it's backfired.

"Shane would have confided in me. He is very open. He came to me many times discussing his private life."

Former British Cycling and Team Sky medic Freeman is appearing at an independent medical practitioners tribunal to determine his fitness to practise medicine, having been charged with ordering testosterone knowing or believing it was to enhance an athlete's performance.

He denies that claim, but has admitted to 18 of 22 charges against him, including lying to UK Anti-Doping and asking supplier Fit4Sport to falsely claim the Testogel had been sent in error.

His lawyer Mary O'Rourke QC said he was "not fit to attend" on Thursday or Friday after a confrontational day at the tribunal on Tuesday.

She said he had "an adverse reaction" after he was called "spineless" by former colleague Sutton.

Australian Sutton did not return to give evidence on Thursday, having angrily left the hearing on Tuesday after repeatedly denying claims by O'Rourke that he is "a liar, a doper and a bully".

Sutton was not compelled to give evidence and was appearing voluntarily as a witness for the General Medical Council (GMC) at the hearing.

Peters, who was at British Cycling until 2014 and was Freeman's boss, said he doubted the General Medical Council's claim that testosterone would be ordered to the National Cycling Centre if it was to be used for doping.

During several hours of cross-examination, he revealed the dysfunctional nature of British Cycling at the time and how he did not question why Dr Freeman claimed the testosterone was for Sutton.

During the tribunal, it was also revealed:

  • How Dr Freeman had been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder
  • How Dr Peter's relationship with Dr Freeman had broken down
  • That Viagra was allegedly also part of the Testogel order in 2011

Thursday's sitting was calmer than Tuesday's, but no less revealing as Dr Peters spoke of the alleged behaviours of the main players at British Cycling and Team Sky.

Dr Peters is a renowned psychiatrist and has worked with Olympic champions Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton, in addition to the England and Liverpool football teams.

And he outlined how damaging allegations about doping practices at British Cycling would be for some of the "amazing athletes" with whom he had previously worked.

He also spoke of how Sutton would go "on the warpath" with some of the cyclists and said the former coach boasted about having a partner in Wales and one in Manchester. He had also heard rumours of a relationship with a masseuse at British Cycling.

He also said of Sutton's behaviour: "Richard and [former British Cycling physiotherapist] Phil Burt found it hard to stand up to it, they didn't know how to handle it.

"Richard was an was a excellent clinician and stood his ground for his patients, but if he started to get into conflict, I would step in."

Dr Peters spoke at length about how disorganised Dr Freeman was, and explained how bipolar disorder would affect him.

He said Dr Freeman "struggled" with note-taking, would leave medicine cabinet doors unlocked, and in one incident where he was distressed at the National Cycling Centre velodrome, "disappeared" to a remote location 20-30 miles outside of Manchester.

In further evidence, Dr Peters said he was "led to believe" by an unnamed person that the testosterone package delivered in 2011 also contained Viagra.

But he believed that meant the delivery was more likely to be for the doctor than an athlete because although he was aware of research articles saying Viagra could help muscles, he added "the results were that it didn't improve performance".

Dr Peters added: "It made me feel it wasn't for a doping offence, it was more personal."

O'Rourke said that Viagra had been ordered to British Cycling headquarters in the past to help athletes with erectile dysfunction caused by sitting in the saddle for long periods.

Towards the end of a long day of questioning, Dr Peters became emotional as he explained how he was lied to by Dr Freeman, who falsely claimed he had sent the testosterone back to suppliers Fit4Sport.

Dr Peters conducted an interview with the Sunday Times in 2017, saying he had been told by Dr Freeman that the package had been sent back to the suppliers in Oldham. That proved to be false, but Dr Peters said that when Dr Freeman apologised several months later and told him the package was for Sutton, he almost felt no remorse.

Dr Peters first spoke to Dr Freeman on the phone, and then received a visit from him at his home.

"I asked him why he lied and he said it was for a member of staff and said it was Shane," Dr Peters said. "I didn't ask why Shane needed it, at that point I was knocked sideways. I remember thinking I just wanted to get off phone."

He added: "I couldn't believe the position I'd been put in because I trusted him.

"[When he came to my home] I was distressed because I wasn't sure how to defend myself. I expected him to be really quite distressed and when he arrived he was really upbeat. He just didn't seem aware of what he'd done and what he was apologising for."

The tribunal continues on Friday with former British Cycling physiotherapist Burt - who discovered the testosterone in May 2011 - set to give evidence.

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