Dr Richard Freeman's legal team says evidence scuppered by Shane Sutton walkout
"The defence case is that his [Sutton's] evidence to date should be totally discarded," says Freeman's counsel Mary O'Rourke
By PA Media
Last Updated: 25/11/19 5:08pm
Dr Richard Freeman's legal team have claimed they cannot use evidence from Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke in defence of the former British Cycling medic because main witness Shane Sutton stormed out of the hearing.
Freeman's defence counsel Mary O'Rourke QC said she had the approval, among others, of an unnamed 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning cyclist to put evidence to Sutton under cross-examination earlier this month.
It is understood that that athlete is Cooke, winner of the road race at the 2002 Commonwealths and 2008 Beijing Olympics, who has been publicly critical of Sutton in the past.
Legal arguments about whether Sutton's testimony should be inadmissible in the fitness to practise hearing of Freeman took up much of Monday in Manchester.
Freeman is charged with ordering testosterone gel in May 2011 knowing or believing it was for use by an athlete to improve performance.
Freeman's defence team are seeking to have Sutton's evidence thrown out as the ex-British Cycling technical director refused to return for further cross-examination having walked out claiming O'Rourke was bullying him.
O'Rourke said she had the approval of three individuals with evidence about Sutton who were willing to be identified, one of whom was a "former 2002 Commonwealth Games and Olympic champion... and Shane Sutton was her coach".
"There was an extensive amount of cross-examination that was to come. I had the material to back it up. I have signed witness statements," she told the hearing.
"If you were to allow that evidence in on the basis of 'oh, well he turned up, sat in the witness box, introduced his statement and gave us an hour of cross-examination', you would be setting a very regrettable precedent in this tribunal.
"In future, any witness who did not like the challenges and questions, you'd send out the message you can write a witness statement, turn up and walk out.
"You'd be causing ructions as far as the defence is concerned and causing lots of defence lawyers running off to see a High Court judge.
"The defence case is that his [Sutton's] evidence to date should be totally discarded.
"I say they have made him the sole and decisive witness, they firmly placed Mr Sutton at the forefront. In conclusion, without Sutton's evidence... the whole thing falls apart."
Simon Jackson QC, for the General Medical Council, defended Sutton's decision not to return to the hearing having initially given evidence on November 12.
Jackson rejected claims by O'Rourke that they should have done more to compel the witness to make himself available for further cross-examination.
"The GMC entirely rejects any criticism of anyone in the GMC," he said. "Mr Sutton's evidence has been received and so has some of his cross-examination.
"The GMC submit his evidence cannot be struck from the record in whole or part.
"The GMC accept Mr Sutton's departure was not due to illness or anxiety but as a direct and foreseeable consequence of Ms O'Rourke's cross-examination.
"(He was) put in the public stocks as it were by Ms O'Rourke (saying) that Mr Sutton is a 'serial liar, a doper with doping history'.
"GMC submit such an inappropriate comment put the witness under significant pressure before he gave evidence.
"We submit you should reject the application for his evidence not to be admitted and that you should let this evidence stand and consider any application at half-time."
A decision on whether Sutton's evidence will be admissible is expected by Thursday.