MARTIN SAMUEL: Richard Freeman orchestrated perhaps the biggest scandal in British sports history

There had long been cracks in the building marked British Cycling. The roof collapsed on Friday.

The verdict of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service places an asterisk against every British runner in the sport’s most successful era. Against the knights of the kingdom, creators of outstanding achievements, winners of the Tour de France, Olympic gold medalists, creators of a philosophy and an ethic that underpin Team GB.

It is probably the biggest scandal in the history of British sport. We were so good. How did we do this? Those who have looked at the evidence around Dr. Richard Freeman believe, on the balance of probabilities, that we cheated.

Dr Richard Freeman convicted of ordering a ban on testosterone 'knowing or believing' it should be given to a runner to improve athletic performance

Dr Richard Freeman convicted of ordering a ban on testosterone ‘knowing or believing’ it should be given to a runner to improve athletic performance

Who exactly – they don’t know. How accurately – they can only speculate. Yet the conclusion of a court that appeared to predate the Hippocratic Oath itself is that Freeman took delivery of testosterone to provide to a rider and then lied about it.

He destroyed laptops, left extremely practical gaps in his recording, suffered mystifying memory lapses or gaps in his knowledge, and the court concluded accordingly. There was.

This is a method of deduction called Occam’s Razor, after the 14th-century theologian William of Ockham. In summary, he felt that the easiest solution is usually the right one.

When faced with competing explanations for an event, shave off the odd outer layers until only the most obvious remains. This is generally what happened, Ockham extrapolated.

The doctor worked for Team Sky (pictured) and British Cycling between 2010 and 2017

The doctor worked for Team Sky (pictured) and British Cycling between 2010 and 2017

The court considered the possibility of a doctor ignoring the properties of testosterone, misusing it to treat erectile dysfunction, having packages sent to his workplace despite the enormous danger to which is essentially a private matter, that it was a pure coincidence that the cycling drug of choice arrived addressed to the main doctor of British Cycling and Team Sky and concluded: No.

The simplest explanation contained the answer. Freeman ordered testosterone to spike a runner. We just don’t know which pilot. Maybe a lot of them. The suspicion is spreading. “If he waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck,” Richard Ings, the respected former Australian Sports Anti-Doping chief, wrote on Friday, “then he’s probably a duck.” Occam’s duck, maybe.

And this cloud will not only settle on some famous athletes. Summarizing last month’s hearing, Freeman’s QC Mary O’Rourke called Sir Dave Brailsford a specter of the process. A ghostly presence, heard of but not of. Brailsford, the maestro of marginal gains, has never been called, never questioned.

Shane Sutton, who took it badly and didn’t take it well, released a statement on Friday. “I want to stress that neither I nor Sir Dave Brailsford was aware of the testosterone order,” he insisted. Yet, like much of what has unfolded in the roughly 17-month Inquisition, there will be those who remain in disbelief.

On the day in 2011 that Phil Burt, head of physiotherapy at British Cycling between 2006 and 2018, discovered the delivery of Testogel, he immediately brought it to clinical director Steve Peters, who was in a room with Freeman, looking for an explanation.

Freeman claimed he ordered testosterone at the behest of former trainer Shane Sutton to treat his erectile dysfunction - allegations the Aussie angrily denied

Freeman claimed he ordered testosterone at the behest of former trainer Shane Sutton to treat his erectile dysfunction – allegations the Aussie angrily denied

Song of a free man. He said the delivery was made in error. It was the first of many awkward cover-ups.

Yet even though Peters took it entirely at face value – and there’s no reason he wouldn’t – given the importance of testosterone in cycling, is it plausible that it isn’t? not even mentioned in Brailsford, whose reputation for involvement and micro-management is beyond measure?

A delivery of Testogel to the velodrome and Brailsford is bypassed? It would be as if the Marvel Universe accepted a shipment of Kryptonite and no one told Superman about it. Yet, throughout, this is what we are asked to believe in British cycling and its masters.

That a body with such attention to detail that it transformed the sport was actually a bunch of old brainless idiots; who did not keep proper medical records, who did not remember the medicine in a Jiffy bag flown across Europe, who did not know exactly how testosterone worked despite, in Freeman’s case, the writing from a book called The Line – Where Medicine and Sport Collides.

“As team doctor for British Cycling and Team Sky, Dr Richard Freeman has treated the world’s most successful cyclists, such as Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins, Laura Trott and Victoria Pendleton,” explains the text of presentation.


Dubbed “the gold medal factory”, verdict calls into question the success of both teams

‘From 2009 to 2017, the’ Doc ‘was part of the team that became national heroes with Olympic and Tour de France victories. In The Line, Dr. Freeman reveals the medical principles and practices that helped these athletes succeed – ideas that we now consider mundane, but which were actually Doc’s own innovations.


“I am saddened by the whole affair. I feel for the doctor; that he ever found himself in this situation, and I remain disappointed to have been used as a scapegoat.

“It caused great pain to me and my family. But it also saddens me that this episode has cast a huge shadow on the success we have had, both at Team Sky and British Cycling.

“I want to point out that neither I nor Sir Dave Brailsford was aware of testosterone ordering.

“But I think it’s important to know who the doctor prescribed it for. Hopefully this will emerge from the UK Anti-Doping investigation.

And this is the man who told the court he didn’t know testosterone improves performance. Other doctors are available, apparently.

Brailsford is also a published author. Team Sky Way promises to reveal “the tips and secrets that deliver an advantage; from training methods and equipment maintenance to nutrition, tactics and psychology … ‘

What if the boss needs to be notified when a package of illegal performance enhancing drugs has arrived at headquarters? Maybe they’re saving this for the paperback – although a rogue doctor’s line of defense, if invoked, doesn’t say much for senior executives. If Freeman acted alone and got away with it for so long, where were men supposed to be obsessed with the details?

Where were Brailsford and Peters? Shouldn’t they have noticed the effects of these marginal gains? Shouldn’t they have been a little curious?

It is hard to remember a scandal more ruinous for the reputation of British sport. Brailsford is the standard-bearer of Team GB, the guru touted as setting standards for all.

He sent British Cycling into the Olympic stratosphere, he took a team that finished nowhere in the 2010 Tour de France and built a mighty force that won in a single year between 2012 and 2019.

Yet every runner who has emerged and thrived under Freeman’s watch is now suspect. From Bailsford over there, there’s a stain, a gnawing doubt. Lance Armstrong spoke of standing at a crossroads, of making a decision that changed his sport and his life. It would appear that Freeman came to a similar moral junction and made the same appeal.

What remains to be seen is who and how many went with him.


By George Bond

May 16, 2011

As a doctor for British Cycling and Team Sky, Freeman orders 30 Testogel sachets from Fit4Sports from the National Cycling Center in Manchester.

28 feb 2017

Freeman does not show up for a parliamentary doping committee hearing, claiming he is too ill to attend.

October 20, 2017

Freeman resigns from Team Sky, ending an eight-year association, citing poor health.

October 29, 2019

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing begins. He admits to making 18 of the 22 charges – including asking Fit4Sports to say the sachets were sent in error – but claims UK trainer Shane Sutton intimidated him into ordering Testogel for the Sutton’s erectile dysfunction and not for athletes. Sutton denies it.

Oct 7, 2020

Freeman claims he had not read the World Anti-Doping Agency rules on ordering Testogel and believed it would be allowed for non-athletes. He then admits to destroying the bags and damaging his laptop before returning it.

February 12, 2021

UKAD charges Freeman with two anti-doping rule violations. Freeman is convicted of ordering testosterone from an anonymous runner on Friday.

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