Team Sky in the spotlight again as former doctor reveals extent of 'marginal gains' mantra

A detailed picture of questionable medical practices carried out at Team Sky and British Cycling has been revealed with the release of witness statements by the teams’ former doctor.

Dr Richard Freeman claims the medical unit was encouraged to treat not only riders but staff and in some cases their family members too.

On one occasion this included the wife of a rider. It was unregulated but all part of the teams’ 'marginal gains' mantra devised by Sir Dave Brailsford, he said. 

"I was asked by Dr Peters to treat this senior management team and selected staff at British Cycling/Team Sky and to dispense medication (free of charge) out of British Cycling supplies, which I did without thinking it through and on the basis it was a request by or on behalf of my employer."

It emerges through Freeman’s testimony that he became a de facto GP for many connected to the two cycling teams.

The GMC said that during his employment there he treated 17 non-riders; patients he should only have consulted in a medical emergency.

On occasions Freeman says these patients would ask that their GP’s were not informed which clearly falls outside good medical practise. Treatments included Viagra, steroid pellets, the powerful steroid triamcinolone, skin cream, even the contraceptive pill.

While admitting none of this should have happened and that acceptable medical protocols and record keeping were not in place, Freeman is keen to explain the pressure he felt under at the time. "It is difficult looking back to completely understand how I could have made so many serious errors. I would like the Tribunal to understand the context in which I was practising."

Freeman’s statements have been released by his legal team during his current fit-to-practise tribunal in which he denies the most serious allegation that he ordered sachets of the banned drug testosterone "knowing or believing" it would be given to an athlete for its performance enhancing benefits. 

Freeman maintains the drug was to treat former coach Shane Sutton’s erectile dysfunction, something he denies.

Former coach Shane Sutton denies receiving any drugs from Dr Freeman for erectile dysfunction. Credit: PA

Freeman claims he went about trying to cover his tracks when the delivery of testosterone arrived at the Manchester Velodrome and was spotted by physiotherapist Phil Burt. In his statement Freeman recounts that dramatic moment. 

"He said 'What the f*** is this for?' without thinking I blurted out 'there's been a mistake'.

"Phil Burt said 'let's go and tell Steve (Peters) and ask him what to do', my overwhelming thought then was not to involve Shane Sutton (for fear of retribution given their reactions).

"I was between a rock and a hard place knowing the source of the request to me and the desire to explain what had happened to my immediate boss and clinical colleague. I repeated there's been a mistake. Dr Peters pressed me and I said untruthfully, to the effect, it must be an error."

Freeman also describes what he claims is Sutton’s reaction when he told him the testosterone had been found saying: "Mr Sutton asked 'did you mention me?' I replied 'no'. He said 'don't drag me into it or you'll be sorry and I don't mean just losing your job."

But it was Sutton who left first and Freeman outlines in his statements what he claims happened soon afterwards.

Shane Sutton's last position was as Technical Director for British Cycling. Credit: PA

Freeman said: "In September 2016 I received several phone calls from him, in an agitated state, blaming me for his downfall. In the last call he told me he had spoken to a journalist who was going to run a story regarding an illegal injection in the bus at Sestriere in 2011 and that we were all finished. He said this related to myself, Sir Dave Brailsford and Sir Bradley Wiggins."

Freeman believes Sutton suspected him of being a whistle-blower regarding claims that, among other things, Sutton had a £6,000 cosmetic dentistry bill paid for by British Cycling. 

Sutton has always denied Freeman’s version and in an interview with the Daily Telegraph this weekend said: "He has got himself into something deep here and seen me as a way out."

Freeman’s tribunal is continuing in Manchester today where in the coming weeks it could well throw up further testimony to shake the reputation of both British Cycling and Team Sky.