British Cycling and Team Sky kept a stock of Viagra for riders in a cabinet because riding for so long gave them “nerve issues”, Dr Richard Freeman’s medical tribunal was told on Thursday.
On another day of revelations at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester it was also claimed both organisations put glory before athlete welfare and employed two senior staff members who could not be trusted.
The claims came as Dr Steve Peters, formerly the head of medicine at British Cycling, admitted mystery still surrounded the delivery of banned Testogel sent to the Manchester velodrome, which they shared with Team Sky in 2011.
Freeman has accepted 18 of the 22 charges against him from the General Medical Council, including ordering Testogel and lying to UK Anti-Doping and Peters about the order. But he insists he was bullied into doing so by the Team Sky and British Cycling head coach, Shane Sutton, to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction, an allegation denied by Sutton – who stormed out of the tribunal on Tuesday after being accused of being a “serial liar and a doper”, which he also denied.
When asked who was behind the Testogel delivery, Peters replied: “I feel like I am being made to solve the crime here. I have a man who has lied to me, I have another guy who is also untrustworthy.”
However, Peters appeared to display a lack of curiosity when Freeman alleged to him that the Testogel was for Sutton in 2017. “I didn’t ask why he had ordered it,” he admitted to the tribunal. He then advanced another theory: that Freeman had ordered the Testogel to treat himself and it had backfired when the order was discovered.
Mary O’Rourke, QC for Freeman, then revealed Viagra pills were regularly ordered into the velodrome “because athletes spending a long time in the saddle have nerve issues that require them”.
However, Peters denied the Viagra had been for performance reasons. He also revealed that British Cycling had brought back Sutton into the organisation despite serious incidents with riders after the Beijing 2008 Olympics because he was so good at helping the team win medals. “When he was good he was excellent, everyone said that, provided he wasn’t stressed,” Peters said, before describing Sutton’s “aggressive behaviour” and how he would “go on the warpath”.
He said: “He got so intense about the standards of the team, which led him into a stressed position . He could run for two months without an incident, then I would get someone coming in saying I think he is bullying me, or being aggressive. It was repeat behaviour.”
Peters also agreed with O’Rourke’s analysis that Sutton had a “tendency to be emotionally unstable and could lash out” especially when under pressure to live up to British Cycling’s “medal factory” status – which allowed the organisation to hit UK Sport’s performance target and therefore deliver more funding. “Richard and [former British Cycling physiotherapist] Phil Burt found it very hard to stand up to Shane’s aggression and that was true of a lot of the athletes,” he said.
Peters said he was sceptical of the GMC’s case that Freeman had ordered Testogel to dope a rider. “At no time did I see any evidence it was for a rider. That’s a ‘huge leap’.”
Peters also told O’Rourke he did not believe Dr Freeman would order it from Fit4Sport to dope a rider because he knew there would be a paper trail. “He could go to Asda, right across the velodrome and write a private prescription, right?” O’Rourke said. “Yes,” replied Peters.
“If he was doping for a favoured athlete he wouldn’t need to put it through British Cycling?” “Yes.”
The tribunal was also told Sutton has seven children by three or four partners and was fond of telling Mr Peters about his relationships. “My relationship with Shane is up and down, like anybody, but he is a very open book,” Peters said. “I was surprised when it was claimed that Testogel was for him. Shane was a very open man. He confided a lot in me with his relations.
“We have two men here, one of them is lying. For me there has to be an answer. I am still in the dark with bits of the jigsaw missing.”
The tribunal continues on Friday.