Dr Richard Freeman has been accused of agitating for the removal of a fellow doctor who raised concerns in 2010 that Team Sky’s new medical policy might breach World Anti-Doping Agency rules, a medical tribunal was told on Tuesday.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester was also told that Freeman sent an email to senior managers at Team Sky warning that another doctor “will not cope with the uncertainty of doping within pro cycling and will worry himself and the team to death”.
The former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor has accepted 18 of the 22 charges against him, including that he ordered testosterone to the British Cycling velodrome and lied to UK Anti-Doping, but has repeatedly denied using drugs to dope a rider.
On a day that centred on sporting ethics, Simon Jackson QC, counsel for the General Medical Council, claimed that Freeman had tried to push out Dr David Hulse amid a disagreement over whether Team Sky should change its policy over intravenous infusions for recovery.
Freeman has repeatedly maintained that his problem with Hulse was over his care of Txema González, a Team Sky staff member who died from a bacterial infection at the Vuelta a España in 2010. But Jackson challenged his account, claiming Freeman “had plans to develop the team in a particular way, and you saw Dr Hulse as a bar to that progress”.
Jackson then read out an email Freeman had sent in September 2010 to professor Steve Peters, then Team Sky’s head of medicine, detailing how he wanted the medical team to evolve. “I like the idea of four to five doctors experienced in pro cycling,” Freeman wrote. “Specifically in areas such as management of infection, vomiting and recovery. I know Dr CC (Hulse) will not be able to adapt his views to reach a consensus decision fit for Sky’s purpose.”
Jackson then read out references in the email to two other doctors, which Freeman then confirmed were Roger Palfreeman and Simon Roberts. Quoting the email, Jackson said Freeman had written that Palfreeman, who had previously worked with the British Olympic teams in 2004 and 2008, “will not cope with the uncertainty of doping within professional cycling and will worry himself, and the team, to death”.
“The second [Roberts] is a cycling nut first. He is not what Team Sky would need to move forward and put Sky in a place to compete to win and a friend of Dr CC [Hulse].”
Freeman ended his email by saying he would also be happy for it to be forwarded to the team principal, Sir Dave Brailsford.
When questioned about this at the tribunal, Freeman replied: “Dr Palfreeman was the British Cycling doctor before I came. But the Pro Tour was a very different kettle of fish. He found it very difficult to cope with riders’ records. He was a worrier.”
Freeman was even more damning about Roberts, saying: “Cycling nuts with stethoscopes was not the way forward. We wanted docs who knew how to deal with elite sportsmen. Some just want to get close to the stars. He was an A&E doctor, a friend of CC [Hulse], and certainly not an appropriate member of the team.”
Earlier in the day Freeman also claimed that Peters had “fudged” the findings of a meeting held to discuss Hulse’s response to Gonzalez’s illness and then death at the 2010 Vuelta – and didn’t reflect the phone records that Peters had acquired.
“Are you really saying the notes written up by Dr Peters are a deliberate fudge, ignoring evidence and facts you say were established during the meeting?” Jackson asked.
“I’m desperately trying not to accuse professor Peters as I still respect his judgment and have caused him enough reputational damage,” Freeman replied. “But I believe these notes were not a complete representation of what we discussed over three hours.”
The tribunal continues.