Shane Sutton will be forced to deny claims that he demanded a delivery of the banned substance Testogel in order to treat his own erectile dysfunction when he appears at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester next week.
The former head coach of British Cycling and Team Sky will be cross-examined by a QC representing Dr Richard Freeman at the hearing to establish Freeman’s fitness to practice medicine.
Dr Freeman, who was British Cycling and Team Sky doctor until his resignation in October 2017, has already admitted a series of the charges against him, including ordering 30 sachets of the banned testosterone product Testogel to British Cycling headquarters in 2011.
It is the General Medical Council’s case that Dr Freeman obtained the gel in the knowledge or belief that it was to be given to an athlete to enhance performance.
Freeman’s claim that the gel was ordered at the behest of, and to treat, Sutton will be strenuously denied by the Australian, who denies either suffering from the condition in question, or having heard of the substance prior to the reporting of the case.
Outlining the GMC’s case on the second day of the hearing, the GMC’s QC Simon Jackson said that while Sutton was occasionally treated by Freeman during the pair’s time together at British Cycling, “that did not include the prescription of Testogel, nor was it ever discussed as a possible treatment, nor did he (Sutton) request Dr Freeman to obtain it.”
Furthermore, according to Jackson, Sutton will confirm that “Dr Freeman had never discussed treating him for a condition for which Testogel was a therapeutic treatment”, and that “he (Sutton) had never heard of Testogel until its delivery was reported.”
Jackson went on to describe a remarkable series of cover-ups and contradictions that allegedly followed the arrival of the package containing the banned substance from a company called Fit4Sport to British Cycling headquarters.
Jackson said the package, addressed to Dr Freeman, was opened by the then British Cycling physio Phil Burt, who said he was “very surprised” to find it contained a banned substance.
Burt immediately took the package to British Cycling’s head of medicine, Dr Steve Peters, who happened to be in the presence of Dr Freeman at the time.
In a statement, Burt said that when challenged over the nature of the package, Dr Freeman was “aghast” and replied: “No, we shouldn’t have this. This is a mistake”.
Freeman is accused of subsequently persuading an employee of Fit4Sport to issue a letter which falsely admitted that the package had been sent to British Cycling in error, rather than, as Freeman conceded to the employee herself, that he had ordered it in error.
Fit4Sport confirmed it had never been in receipt of the package, which was due to be returned as part of the arrangement, in order to be destroyed. The package has not been traced.
Jackson intimated that Sutton was being used as a “scapegoat” by Freeman, described as “something of a loner”, who may have been motivated to involve Sutton by the conviction that he had been treated unreasonably over the cost for a personal long-haul flight, which Sutton had requested he reimburse.
Summing up, Jackson said: “At every stage, from 2011 to the present time, Dr Freeman has lied, been dishonest and given evasive answers about the Testogel.
“Since then he has involved others in his scheme of deceit. It is not for the GMC to come up with Dr Freeman’s motive for a cover-up.”
Responding, Dr Freeman’s QC Mary O’Rourke indicated that in light of Jackson’s statement, she would now request both Peters and Burt, in addition to Sutton.
“We don’t accept the factual accuracy [of Jackson’s statement],” said O’Rourke. “He has drawn inferences which are not capable of being drawn [and] reached conclusions that are simply not sustainable.”
In addition, O’Rourke indicated she will make a Section 35a request to obtain a document which she described as a “witness statement or affidavit”, signed by Sutton, and which she believes is held by a national newspaper “as an insurance policy against any potential claims for defamation” following an article concerning the former coach.
According to O’Rourke, the signed document by Sutton contains “a number of lies” and is “totally inconsistent” with some of the evidence provided.