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Former Sky doctor Freeman destroyed laptop before handing it to experts, tribunal hears

Joe Robinson
7 Oct 2020

Freeman also tells tribunal that meeting with Team Sky boss left him in tears

Former Team Sky and British Sky team doctor Richard Freeman admitted to using 'a screwdriver' to destroy a laptop before giving it to forensic experts conducting a doping investigation, a tribunal has heard.

In an explosive first day of giving evidence at his own medical tribunal, Dr Freeman also stated that he was left in tears and unable to attend the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing into doping in 2017 following an intense meeting with Sky chairman and Team Sky boss James Murdoch, a legal representative of Rupert Murdoch and sports lawyer Mike Morgan.

Freeman is currently facing the accusation that he ordered banned substance testosterone to the British Cycling Velodrome in Manchester in 2011 'knowing or believing' it was to enhance an athlete's performance. The doctor has admitted 18 of 22 charges brought against him – including lying to a UK Anti-Doping investigation – but denies ordering Testogel to be used by an athlete.

Instead, Freeman is arguing that former British Cycling and Team Sky head coach Shane Sutton bullied him into ordering the banned substance in order to treat erectile dysfunction, a claim Sutton denies.

At a previous hearing in 2017, it was established that a laptop containing medical information regarding British athletes had been stolen from him in 2014. The lost information subsequently hindered the then-ongoing jiffy bag investigation at the time.

It has now been established that a second, replacement laptop provided to Freeman was checked by UKAD and then was requested for further forensic examination bu the General Medical Council regarding the 2011 delivery of testosterone to the Manchester velodrome.

However, Freeman has admitted to attempting to destroy the laptop with a screwdriver before handing it to the GMC as he was worried about hackers in India.

'The laptop in question was given to me as a temporary fix after the loss of my laptop,' Freeman told the tribunal while under questioning by prosecutor, Simon Jackson QC. 'It was returned to me as being of no further interest to Ukad or British Cycling. By then I had a new laptop.'

Freeman then claimed he was going to take the laptop to a local recycling centre, but was afraid of the possibility of hackers being able to access data on it.

'I had seen a programme about how people in India can access data on laptops. I decided I cannot let that happen so I decided to destroy it. This was in the midst of a period when I wasn't feeling well. I told my lawyers, [who] said I shouldn't do that for data protection reasons.

'Then when [the GMC's forensic experts] asked for it, of course I handed it over. I wondered if they could retrieve data. I had a hard drive. I thought it had backed up my data.'

When then asked whether he tried to destroy the laptop to prevent investigators accessing its, he replied he 'had nothing to hide'.

Later in the day's questioning, the tribunal then heard that Dr Freeman was forced into cancelling an appearance at the DCMS select committee hearing into doping after a round of intense questioning by Murdoch, his father's lawyer and sports lawyer Morgan.

He admitted to the meeting being 'very tense' and that they wanted to 'know how I would answer certain questions'. The pressure then saw Freeman request to answer the DCMS select committee hearing in writing stating he was too ill to attend.

Freeman also admitted to 'abandoning his medical training' to provide former coach Sutton with Viagra. The doctor said he was bullied by Sutton into prescribing the drug without the necessary medical examinations.

'I didn't examine his testicles. I didn't take his blood pressure. I didn't take a medical assessment,' said Freeman. 'I fully accept it was poor medical practice, I regret that.'

The tribunal into Freeman continues on Wednesday.

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