Richard Freeman might have post-traumatic stress disorder after November outburst at his tribunal, psychiatrist says

Dr Richard Freeman may have been left with post-traumatic stress disorder following Shane Sutton’s outburst

Dr Richard Freeman may have been left with post-traumatic stress disorder following Shane Sutton’s outburst at his fitness-to-practise tribunal last November, a psychiatrist told the hearing on Wednesday.

Prof Don Grubin added that the long-running saga, which is set to run into a third year, was having a severe effect on Freeman’s mental health.

The former British Cycling and Team Sky medic is accused by the General Medical Council of ordering testosterone to the national velodrome in 2011, “knowing or believing” that it was intended for an athlete to facilitate doping. Freeman claims he was bullied into ordering it by then head coach Sutton to treat the Australian’s erectile dysfunction.

In an explosive session at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester last November, Sutton angrily denied Freeman’s claim, ­repeatedly challenged the doctor – who was sitting behind a screen – to “man up” and come out, calling him a “spineless individual”.

According to Grubin, a psychiatrist who has examined him in the intervening period, Freeman described “anxiety, nightmares and hyper-vigilance” as a result of the experience, adding of the possibility of PTSD: “It wasn’t in my remit to make a diagnosis. I was raising that as one diagnosis that I thought was likely.”

On the penultimate day of this hearing window, Grubin was questioned by Dr Freeman’s QC, Mary O’Rourke, over the circumstances that led her client to order the testosterone. Freeman’s evidence is that he did not order the drugs until some weeks after Sutton allegedly bullied him.

Grubin said he did not think bullying was likely to have been “the trigger” for Freeman’s actions.

“He withstood that,” Grubin said. “Then something happened some weeks later that led to him prescribing it. My view is that it’s a stretch to say the bullying that took place some weeks before was the trigger for it.”

Grubin also disagreed with another psychiatrist, Dr Max Henderson, who told the tribunal last week that the doctor’s bipolar disorder made him especially vulnerable.

Grubin said he believed Freeman may have been in a hypomanic episode, which led him to behave “impetuously” and exercise “poor judgment”.

The hearing, which originally began in February of last year but has been beset by delays, is due to adjourn on Thursday, with no date yet set for it to reconvene.

Decisions on the disputed charges are unlikely to be handed down for several months and potentially not until next October. Grubin said the impact on Freeman’s mental health of such a drawn-out process had been severe. Freeman was only expected to give evidence for one week but ended up being questioned by the GMC’s QC Simon Jackson across six weeks.

According to notes made by Grubin during their consultation, Freeman said: “I can’t cope now with Mr Jackson. He can be mean and nasty. I feel he’s getting back at me.” He also said Jackson was “out of his depth” and “out to get me”. Grubin said the concern was Freeman might be becoming “paranoid”.  

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