With Richard Freeman’s medical tribunal still incomplete as it reaches the end of its latest schedule on Thursday, a new timeframe has been announced to bring the hearing to a conclusion in May 2021.
Having started out in February 2019, the fit-for-practice hearing that centres on the testosterone gels ordered to the national velodrome by the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor, will therefore exceed two years.
Under the new timeframe, which has been worked around existing commitments of the lawyers and tribunal panel members, the final scheduled sitting is May 4-7. That brings the case right up against the 10-year anniversary of the testosterone delivery, after which anti-doping charges could not be leveled, under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Statute of Limitations.
UK Anti-Doping, which first heard about the testosterone delivery and passed its evidence on to the General Medical Council (GMC), has been poised to take action if the GMC was able to substantiate the key allegation that Freeman ordered the banned substance “knowing or believing” it was to be administered to a rider.
At the time of the delivery, in June 2011, an eight-year statute of limitations was in place, but the new 10-year limit, imposed in 2015, is understood to now apply.
The tribunal will reconvene on January 22 and will sit again from January 25-27, in order to complete the ‘facts’ stage of the process, where Freeman and his defence team dispute the allegations tabled by the GMC.
Freeman has accepted 18 of the 22 original allegations but is disputing the four relating to the testosterone gels, claiming he ordered them to the treat erectile dysfunction of senior coach Shane Sutton.
Freeman’s legal team called their witnesses this week and the GMC, whose key witness Shane Sutton stormed out after cross-examination last November, called its final witness on Wednesday.
The tribunal is expected to deliver a decision on the facts on March 2. After that, the hearing will move to the ‘impairment’ phase, where the doctor’s fitness to practice is assessed in light of the findings. Both sides can still call witnesses at this stage before the process concludes with a decision regarding any punishment.
The tribunal will reconvene for this for three days from March 17-19, before another four-day session six weeks later, from May 4-7.
In theory, that will bring the process to an end, but it has sailed past every deadline set so far, and more twists and turns can’t be ruled out.
On Wednesday, professor Don Grubin, a witness for the GMC, reportedly told the tribunal he believed Freeman showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder after last November’s hearing, when Sutton blasted him as a “spineless individual” before storming out.
Earlier this week, Freeman’s team called Tony Cooke, father of former Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, and former rider Květoslav Palov, as they sought to bring doping allegations surrounding Sutton back to the surface.
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