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Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman has made his first appearance so far this year at the tribunal evaluating his fitness to practice medicine. Answering questions at a hearing on Tuesday, Freeman addressed the circumstances surrounding a damaged laptop that was given to the General Medical Council’s (GMC) forensic experts for examination. He also provided details of a tense meeting in 2017 with James Murdoch, then-chairman of Team Sky’s sponsor Sky plc.
Freeman is giving evidence this week in a tribunal process that began a year and a half ago, but has been delayed various times, largely due to adjournments for Freeman’s mental health.
The tribunal is looking into allegations that Freeman ordered testosterone to British Cycling’s Manchester headquarters in 2011 “knowing or believing” it would be used to boost an athlete’s performance. Freeman has admitted to some of the charges leveled against him, but has said that he ordered the testosterone for Shane Sutton to treat erectile dysfunction, which Sutton has denied.
As The Guardian reports, Freeman answered questions on Tuesday on a number of different topics. On Tuesday morning, he was asked about a damaged laptop that was given to the GMC for examination in 2019.
The laptop in question was a temporary replacement for one that Freeman has alleged was stolen in Greece in 2014, which supposedly had information on it that would have explained what was in a jiffy bag delivered to Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné. UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) examined the replacement laptop as part of an investigation in 2017, and then Freeman apparently damaged it beyond repair.
Regarding the replacement laptop, the lawyer for the GMC said on Wednesday, “You’d taken a screwdriver or some other blunt instrument to it, hadn’t you?” Freeman then responded, “Yes.”
Freeman said that after he then received a new laptop, leaving him without a need for the older one, he damaged the older laptop instead of recycling it.
“I had seen a program about how people in India can access data on laptops,” Freeman said, according to The Guardian. “I decided I cannot let that happen so I destroyed it. This was in the midst of a period when I wasn’t feeling well. I told my lawyers and my solicitor Mr Eastwood said I shouldn’t do that for data protection reasons.”
Due to the damage, the GMC was unable to access any data on the laptop after Freeman handed it over. There were apparently no backups of the data, either, with Freeman saying that he “falsely presumed” that the computer’s contents had been backed up by British Cycling or UKAD.
Later in Tuesday’s hearing, Freeman also detailed a meeting between himself and company brass at Sky plc, the company then sponsoring Team Sky, now known as Ineos Grenadiers. Freeman said he met with Sky chairman James Murdoch before an expected appearance before a parliamentary committee investigating doping in sport.
“I went down to see James Murdoch and Team Sky with Mr Eastwood to be briefed at an imposing building at Canary Wharf,” Freeman said, according to The Guardian. “Mike Morgan was there — who is a big person in sports law – and Rupert Murdoch’s lawyer was over from Australia. It was very tense. Pressurized. They wanted to know how I would answer certain questions. I broke down in tears and couldn’t go on. Mr Eastwood stopped the session. I never went back. I wrote to Damien Collins [Member of Parliament] to say I would answer questions in writing.”
The tribunal continues on Wednesday and is currently scheduled to run through November 26.