Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman’s tribunal has been postponed again while the panel of judges continues to hear “preliminary legal argument”, the Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service has confirmed.
The hearing was meant to start at the MPTS’s Manchester base on February 6 but was immediately adjourned when Dr Freeman’s legal team made a private application to the tribunal.
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The nature of that application is unknown but it is thought to be related to Dr Freeman’s mental health and the two parties have been arguing the matter for 10 days.
In a short statement, the MPTS said: “Please be advised that the preliminary legal argument being made in the hearing of Dr Freeman will continue throughout this week. This means that we do not expect a decision on the application until sometime next week.”
With the panel listening to legal argument all week, the earliest possible start date for the tribunal would be next Tuesday, as the judges would need time to consider the application and the tribunal’s clerk would have to write up the decision.
Next Tuesday would be day 15 of a hearing that was scheduled to last 20 working days until March 5 but the protracted preliminary dispute has ruled out any hope of finishing this tribunal on time, and it is now inevitable it will need to be relisted for later this year.
And with the judges, lawyers and witnesses having full diaries, it is possible that a resolution in this contentious case could require more than one hearing, perhaps pushing a verdict back until next year.
This means the speculation surrounding the case will continue throughout the cycling season, potentially hindering Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford’s hopes of finding a sponsor to replace the broadcaster when it pulls out at the end of the year.
Dr Freeman is facing several misconduct charges but the most serious is related to a delivery of testosterone, a performance-enhancing drug banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), to the National Cycling Centre in May 2011, which he then allegedly tried to cover up.
The charges are being brought by the General Medical Council (GMC) and it claims Dr Freeman obtained the 30 sachets of Testogel “to administer to an athlete to improve their athletic performance”, a charge that would send shock waves through British cycling if proven.
In a statement issued to Press Association Sport, a GMC spokesperson said: “We were ready to open our case on the first day of the hearing and that remains the case now.
“However, as with any legal proceedings, the defence are entitled to raise preliminary matters, and we continue to assist the tribunal with their consideration of those matters. We remain ready to open our case and are eager to do so as soon as possible.”
The man at the centre of cycling’s ‘Jiffy bag scandal’, which relates to a different delivery to a race in France a month later, Dr Freeman resigned from British Cycling in October 2017 after he told the governing body he was too ill to face disciplinary action for poor record-keeping.
He also failed to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the Jiffy bag issue in December 2016, pulled out of interviews with UK Anti-Doping and did not show up to give evidence on behalf of former GB track sprinter Jess Varnish at her employment tribunal in December.
Dr Freeman, however, has denied all doping charges in the past and is understood to want to defend himself against the threat of being struck off.