Dr Richard Freeman faced 'constant attrition' from Shane Sutton, tribunal hears
Freeman claims Sutton bullied him into ordering testosterone gel to treat Sutton's erectile dysfunction; Sutton denies both claims
By PA Media
Last Updated: 15/11/19 3:22pm
Dr Richard Freeman was on the end of "constant attrition" from former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton after the pair fell out in 2015, a medical tribunal has heard.
Dr Freeman, who worked for British Cycling until his resignation in 2017, denies ordering testosterone gel in 2011 knowing or believing it was to be used by an athlete to improve performance.
He claims instead that Sutton bullied him into making the order, and the gel was to treat Sutton's erectile dysfunction. Sutton emphatically denied both of those claims before storming out of the tribunal in Manchester on Tuesday, when he called Dr Freeman "spineless".
Phil Burt, the head of physiotherapy at British Cycling between 2006 and 2018, said in his witness statement Sutton and Freeman had a "monumental falling-out" in early 2015 over a long-haul flight Freeman took from Colombia after a family bereavement.
"He [Freeman] arranged a flight," Burt recalled. "Richard thought it was reasonable that he would be recompensed, Shane said no. It became one of those things that they just couldn't let go."
Burt said after that incident "the pair's relationship had really come to a bad place".
He then recalled one incident in 2015, after the argument over the flight.
"Richard was in the corridor and Shane Sutton said, 'the doc looks like he's losing weight - I've got him where I want him'," Burt said.
Asked whether he had witnessed Sutton bullying Freeman before 2015, Burt said: "I didn't see it before that. That doesn't mean it didn't go on, I just didn't witness it."
In his witness statement, Dr Freeman alleges Sutton asked him to write a report backing up his decision to leave Jess Varnish out of the 2016 Olympic programme on medical grounds. Freeman says he refused to do so.
When this was put to Burt by Dr Freeman's barrister Mary O'Rourke QC, Burt said: "He [Freeman] never shared that with me, but I can imagine him standing up against that, yes."
Burt also said Sutton had accused him and Dr Freeman of being the whistleblower over allegations Varnish had been bullied.
"Shane Sutton said, 'one of you two has written to UK Sport'," Burt recalled.
"I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about'. He [Sutton] was quite conciliatory saying, 'look, we've got to talk, we've got to get on'. I do remember Richard saying Shane had threatened to check his phone."
Burt was asked about his interview for the 2017 Annamarie Phelps report into the culture at British Cycling by O'Rourke.
In it, Burt admitted to having "difficult conversations, some that were not pleasant. One veiled threat, but not bullying".
O'Rourke asked Burt whether any of that involved Sutton. "A large majority, yes. And the veiled threat," Burt said.
On the subject of the Testogel package, Burt said he would not have opened it had he known Dr Freeman was at the National Cycling Centre that day, but that he, Dr Freeman and former British Cycling head of medicine Steve Peters "would open each other's packages" if they thought the addressee was absent.
"If it was in his name and he was in I would give it to him. There might be things I didn't want to know about," Burt said.
Asked to expand on that comment by the General Medical Council QC Simon Jackson, Burt added: "What I meant was I don't want to understand what he was getting and what it was for, but there was no problem with me opening something and giving the rest to him."
Freeman has already admitted he ordered the testosterone and to lying about ordering it to Burt and Peters, as well as charges related to prescribing medicine for non-athlete members of staff and related to record-keeping.
The tribunal continues on Wednesday.