Richard Freeman tribunal: Former Team Sky head coach Shane Sutton’s evidence ruled admissible

Shane Sutton‘s evidence at the hearing of former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman is admissible, a tribunal has ruled.

Sutton, the former head coach at the two organisations, stormed out of the hearing at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester on November 12 after being angered by the questioning from Dr Freeman’s QC, Mary O’Rourke.

O’Rourke had argued that Sutton’s evidence should be disregarded because he did not complete it but, after deliberating for a week, the tribunal ruled it is admissible in a blow to Dr Freeman’s case.

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His legal team were clearly taken aback by the decision, with O’Rourke saying: “I am surprised by your decision on Mr Sutton’s evidence. It’s not what I anticipated.”

O’Rourke was highly critical of the panel’s decision, saying: “We think you’ve got this really wrong. We think you’ve skewered things to put it mildly. We think you’ve ignored a significant number of points that I made.”


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Prior to Sutton appearing at the hearing, O’Rourke had described him as a “serial liar” and “a doper with a doping history”, accusations which Sutton strongly denies.

The decision of the tribunal read: “The tribunal determined that Mr Sutton’s unwillingness to continue to be cross-examined arose directly out of his perception of unfairness and bullying engendered by Ms O’Rourke’s approach to him, an approach he perceived to have begun even before he had entered the hearing room.”

It continued: “There was an objective and understandable basis to warrant Mr Sutton forming the said perception.”

Importantly, the panel also said Sutton’s evidence “is not sole or decisive regarding the outstanding matters”.

Dr Freeman was present at the hearing on Friday for the first time since Sutton’s evidence, after which he sought an appointment with his psychiatrist.

The hearing is to determine Dr Freeman’s fitness to practise medicine. He has already admitted 18 charges but denies four others relating to the ordering of testosterone to British Cycling headquarters in 2011.

Despite the ruling, O’Rourke said she would still be making a submission to have the remaining charges thrown out and raised the possibility of applying for a judicial review into the decision to allow Sutton’s evidence.

The first part of the submission was due to be heard on Friday afternoon with the bits relevant to Sutton delayed until Monday, with O’Rourke admitting she had “perhaps naively” prepared on the basis that the evidence was going to be excluded.

The tribunal panel also decided that a redacted transcript of an interview Dr Freeman did with BBC sports editor Dan Roan in July 2018 can be admitted.

O’Rourke, meanwhile, is still pursuing a document allegedly held by the Daily Mail relating to Sutton that the QC deems relevant to Dr Freeman’s case.

She revealed a source, dubbed ‘Deep Throat’ by the defence team, is concerned about his job because of the role he has played.

O’Rourke also raised concerns about the length of time the hearing is taking, claiming prior engagements, including a skiing holiday in January “prescribed in effect by doctors” for Dr Freeman, could mean it needs to be delayed until June if the charges are not thrown out.

The General Medical Council’s QC, Simon Jackson, said: “It’s completely unfair (for O’Rourke) to put pressure on this tribunal. I’m very concerned that the clock is now being run down by further delays.”

PA

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