Latest drug controversy to hit British Cycling

19 November 2018

Dr Richard Freeman, former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor, is facing an investigation by the General Medical Council, (‘GMC’) in connection with testosterone patches that were delivered to British Cycling headquarters in 2011.

Testosterone is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances and is banned both in and out of competition. This means an elite athlete cannot receive a therapeutic use exemption (‘TUE’) for testosterone under any circumstances. The drug’s properties include increasing muscle mass and strength, reducing body fat, facilitating muscle recovery and enhancing endurance - and so it comes as no surprise the drug gives users a competitive edge. This is not the first time the drug has hit the headlines in the cycling community- it being the drug of choice for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

The existence of the testosterone delivery first came to light in 2016 following the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation into the contents of a Jiffy bag delivered from the British Cycling headquarters to Team Sky during the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné. Although that investigation did not result in anti-doping charges being brought, UKAD’s investigation allegedly found evidence that Dr Freeman had taken delivery of a batch of testosterone patches at a time when he worked for Team Sky and British Cycling.  There is no suggestion any coach or athlete has committed any violation.

Dr Freeman has denied wrongdoing stating that the patches were not intended for riders and returned to their supplier, Fit 4 Sport Ltd. He told the BBC on 1 July 2018:

I can clear everything up but at the moment I am under investigation about my medicines management policy by the General Medical Council (GMC) and therefore I am not at liberty at the present time due to respect for them not to talk about it.”

The cycling community will no doubt follow this investigation with interest, particularly in the wake of the DCMS Select Committee’s damning criticism of Dr Freeman’s medicine management during the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné.  

If found guilty of misconduct before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, (‘MPTS’) Dr Freeman could face a sanction ranging from anything between conditions of practice up to erasure- preventing him from practising as a doctor indefinitely.

Further information

The rules and regulations on anti-doping and prohibited substances is complex. If you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog please contact a member of our team in confidence.

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