MIKE KEEGAN: Cycling must brace itself for fireworks as Dr Richard Freeman finally faces the music… the issues brought to light here could be incredibly damaging for the sport
- Dr Richard Freeman took to the stand for the first time at a tribunal over accusations he ordered testosterone to British Cycling headquarters in 2011
- It was a staggering day as Freeman admitted to destroying a significant laptop
- At a fiery hearing, battle lines were drawn as QC Simon Jackson
- To his credit, the softly-spoken medic answered all the questions asked of him
- Cycling must prepare itself for some explosive revelations with the tribunal set to continue until November
More than 20 months after this tribunal was due to end, Dr Richard Freeman made his way to the witness stand for the first time.
In the space where former coach Shane Sutton had last November accused Freeman of being ‘spineless’, dressed in a charcoal suit, white shirt and maroon tie, the medic stood and took the oath.
This was it. Finally, in a brightly lit, nondescript conference room on the seventh floor of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester, we were to hear from the man at the centre of the storm. Only we were not.
Dr Richard Freeman made his way to the witness stand for the first time to answer questions over claims he ordered testosterone to British Cycling headquarters in 2011
Mary O’Rourke QC, representing Dr Freeman, interrupted to address the panel. The defence team had WiFi issues and the media, on socially-distanced chairs, were ushered out of the room while they were fixed.
Fifteen minutes later — with Freeman now in front of a bigger table to house the reams of documents before him — cross-examination began. Simon Jackson, the QC acting on behalf of the General Medical Council, kicked things off. Freeman gave his first answer and the room could not hear his response. He was asked to turn on the microphone in front of him. This was not the fiery start many had anticipated but it added to the intrigue.
Unleashed, Jackson went immediately on to the front foot. It was worth waiting for.
He pointed to the part of Freeman’s statement in which he claimed he knew the difference between right and wrong. ‘Did you know the difference during the period concerned when you ordered the Testogel?’ he asked.
Dr Freeman was pressed hard for answers as some extraordinary revelations came to light during the hearing in Manchester
‘Being honest is one of my core values,’ Freeman responded, before painting a drawn-out picture of his ethics.
‘I have lots of regrets,’ he concluded. ‘I have reflected a lot and I am very sorry. It’s brought me here — I did something terrible.’
Jackson was not for going around the houses. ‘I’ll ask again,’ he said, repeating his initial question. Battle lines were drawn.
What followed — even for a hearing which in November saw Jiffygate turn into Stiffygate when Sutton stormed out amid claims he suffered from erectile dysfunction (claims the Australian vowed his wife could rubbish) — was extraordinary.
From Jackson’s statement that Freeman took a blunt object to a significant laptop computer, to Freeman’s revelation that he had been grilled by Rupert Murdoch’s lawyer and then-Sky chairman James Murdoch at Canary Wharf on what he was going to tell the DCMS hearing into doping in sport — which he then refused to appear at — this was a staggering day.
Freeman answered all his questions during a tense hearing but the issues raised could have huge consequences for cycling
Measured and eloquent, Jackson was relentless. To his credit, the softly spoken Freeman, who looked well, answered all of his questions. But the issues that were brought to light could be incredibly damaging for the sport of cycling.
After a stunning morning session, the afternoon was slightly more sedate.
That said, we did hear Freeman’s graphic reasoning behind ordering the gel which he says was for Sutton. ‘I didn’t examine his testicles, I didn’t take his blood pressure, I didn’t take a medical assessment.’
Jackson responded: ‘Sutton came in, said he wanted Viagra, and you gave it to him. You abandoned your medical training because you were unable to say no to him.’
‘Yes,’ responded Freeman.
The day was scheduled to end at 3.15pm. At 3.10pm, during a rare pause, Freeman asked if this would be an appropriate time to stop. His request was granted.
Wednesday promises to provide more of the same. The hearing is due to continue until late November. Cycling must brace itself.