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Former Team Sky doctor admits he would not prescribe Wiggins corticosteroid again

Joe Robinson
2 Jul 2018

Breaking his two year silence, Freeman comments on the stolen laptop and issuing Wiggins his TUEs

Dr Richard Freeman has spoken publicly for the first time on the Bradley Wiggins UK Anti-Doping investigation, stating that he would not prescribe the rider a therapeutic use exemption for corticosteroid given the chance again.

The former Team Sky doctor had remained silent on the UKAD investigation that launched two years ago investigating Wiggins's use of corticosteroids via the TUE system ahead of major races in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, which was leaked by Russian hackers Fancy Bears. 

In the interim, Freeman also withdrew from giving evidence at the subsequent Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) parliamentary select committee hearing which investigated doping in sport citing 'ill health'. 

However, Freeman has now broken his silence in an interview with the BBC while also penning a book on the issue.

Despite denying any wrongdoing over the acquiring of TUEs and the allegations around the mysterious jiffy bag package delivered to Wiggins and the team at the 2011 Criterium de Dauphine, Freeman admits he would think differently if given this opportunity again.

Freeman told the BBC that the corticosteroid 'was an effective treatment' for Wiggins’s allergies but 'on medical grounds, I would [act differently]

'Now I would also advise him there’s a repetutional risk here,' he added.

The doctor also addressed claims that Wiggins was prescribed anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone for the potential performance enhancing benefits that fellow cyclists have attributed to the drug. 

Former professional racer David Millar has commented that the corticosteroid was 'powerful' in its effect and left him feeling instantly different.

Others have underlined its ability to strip fat from the body without the loss of muscle power.

However, Freeman was direct in stating he followed the WADA code in the prescription of such drug and approached this with legitimate means.

'I was abiding by the TUE system,' Freeman said. 'Being a doctor is a challenge. Being a doctor in sport has additional challenges, but we have the World Anti-Doping Agency code [which] has transformed sport and I applaud it and I abide by it.

'That has a TUE [system] which allows athletes when they're not well or they need medication, just like you or I might need medication, to be given it under approval, provided it meets three criteria.

'They are the three criteria I followed.'

The leak of Wiggins's TUE and the information surrounding the jiffy bag prompted a major government inquiry into doping in sport - the DCMS report - which saw the likes of Team Sky team manager Sir Dave Brailsford and former sports director Shane Sutton called in to provide evidence.

Freeman was also summoned but pulled out last minute citing poor health, an issue he broached in the interview. 

'I found the investigation, initially by the newspapers and then by UKAD, very stressful. I suffered from a major depressive illness.

'You lose all your energy for life, you can’t sleep, you feel helpless, hopeless, worthless, guilty about all sorts of things… you can have suicidal thoughts,' thoughts he admitted he still gets.

Jiffy bags and lost laptops

Much of the DCMS investigation into doping in sport centred around a mysterious jiffy bag that had been transported in 2011 from Manchester to the France while Wiggins was racing the Criterium du Dauphine.

The contents of the package were unknown with the team claiming it to be decongestive flumicil while others speculated into it being something different, considering flumicil could be purchased across the counter at any pharmacy.

The only record as to what was in the package was stored on the laptop of Freeman, a laptop which was stolen on a trip to Greece in 2014.

This meant that there was no proof either way as to what had been given to Freeman and Wiggins on the final day of the 2011 Dauphine.

With no backups, the select committee also came to the conclusion that it could not prove what had been delivered in the package. This has prompted many to cite the 'lost laptop' as an excuse and attempt to hide its true contents.

This was an issue that Freeman also broached in the interview.

'A patio window smashed, the safe stolen, three days at a local police station in Santorini. We had a police report that was given to BC and I had a report from the IT department that the laptop was reported missing,' further explaining that a loss of data report had been filed containing 'Sky rider ABP [Athlete Biological Passport] data'.

This lack of a back up system prompted Freeman to apologise and admit that record-keeping for the multi-million pound organisations of British Cycling and Team Sky 'could have been done a lot better.'

Some have seen Freeman's lack of cooperation and the excuse surrounding the stolen laptop as simply ways to avoid questioning around the issue with it being exacerbated by Freeman's decision to publish a book on the matter as opposed to giving evidence. 

British Cycling commented on this decision by stating, 'we are disappointed that Dr Richard Freeman has chosen to publish this book having refused to fully participate in our investigation,

'We hope publication confirms Dr Freeman's return to good health and therefore his willingness to now partake in the resolution of outstanding inquiries.'

Richard Freeman's book 'The Line: Where Medicine and Sport Collide' is set for release tomorrow.