Sutton’s outburst at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing in Manchester came after O’Rourke pushed and probed the Australian on his own past, alleging that he had a history of doping and bullying.
O’Rourke said she had an anonymous witness who had testified to her that Sutton, a former professional rider, had injected himself with testosterone which he kept in vials in a fridge in his home in Rowley Regis. These claims, she said, were shared with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee when it looked into doping in British sport two years ago.
Sutton called the claim “laughable”, adding that he had never tested positive in around 100 tests during his career. He guessed that O’Rourke’s informant must be Darryl Webster, a former teammate, warning Webster was an unreliable witness who was out for revenge because Sutton insulted him after his wife left him. Sutton pointed out Webster was convicted in 2013 for growing dope. O’Rourke denied that her informant was Webster.
The hearing is being held to determine whether Freeman is fit to practise medicine. He is accused by the General Medical Council of, among other things, ordering a batch of testosterone patches to British Cycling’s headquarters in Manchester in 2011, “knowing or believing it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance”.
Freeman admits to having lied when initially questioned by UK Anti-Doping about the package, and of trying to cover his tracks. But he now alleges that he was bullied by Sutton into buying the Testogel. Freeman’s legal team claims it was to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. In one of the more surreal moments of a surreal afternoon, he said his wife could come in and testify that he had no problem “getting a hard-on”.
O’Rourke repeatedly accused Sutton of bullying her client, revealing that Sutton sent him a text message last year. “Be careful what you say, don’t drag me in, you won’t be the only person I can hurt.”
Freeman, who has suffered from stress and did not turn up for his parliamentary appointment, is being treated as a vulnerable witness in the case and was separated from Sutton by a screen while the latter was being cross-examined.
In heated exchanges, Sutton repeatedly challenged Freeman to “man up” and come out from behind the screen. “Richard, take the screen down,” he said. “Look me in the eye. I can look you in the eye and swear on my three-year-old daughter’s death [sic] that I never ordered any Testogel.”
Sutton eventually ran out of patience in spectacular fashion. “I’ve had two days now waiting to come up here,” he said, referring to legal applications lodged first thing on Monday which meant the whole of that day was lost to wrangling over what could be said in public about his and Freeman’s health.
“I have come here, told the truth, answered your questions. She [O’Rourke] has accused me of all kinds of things. I am going to leave the hearing now. I don’t need to be dragged through this s—fight this individual is trying to bring on me. I was asked to answer whether I ordered Testogel. I did not.”
Majorca-based Sutton added that he was going to go back to his “hole” in Spain and “enjoy my retirement”. He said: “The person lying is the man behind the screen and hopefully one day he will explain why,” he said. “He’s a good bloke, a good friend, I have no argument with him or anyone else. I wish Richard all the best.
“This is a guy who the joint head of cycling wanted out the door because he turned up drunk more than once. Richard went through a messy divorce. He was like the Scarlet Pimpernel. I covered his backside when there were two critical cases of athletes ill and we couldn’t get hold of him. If you bring [former head of medicine] Steve Peters in he would verify it.”
Peters is due to give evidence later this week.
Sutton, who is still technically under oath, later spoke with reporters outside the St James’ building in Manchester. He apologised for being emotional, revealing one of his sons had been involved in a serious incident a few days ago.