Australian cycling great Shane Sutton’s appearance at a medical tribunal examining alleged doping turned farcical as he threatened to bring his wife in to disprove claims he needed help to deal with erectile dysfunction.
In a series of astonishing scenes in Manchester, the 1978 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who joined the British cycling set-up in the early 2000s and was head coach of world-leading Team Sky before becoming British Cycling’s technical director, stormed out of the hearing after being accused of being a serial liar.
Sutton was giving evidence at a tribunal which could end the career of one-time British Cycling and Team Sky medical chief Dr Richard Freeman.
After escaping punishment following a 14-month investigation by the UK Anti-Doping Agency into his work at Team Sky, Freeman is now being pursued by the General Medical Council.
But the afternoon turned into a “trial” of Sutton, who was claimed to have bullied Freeman into ordering 30 satchels of testosterone in 2011.
Known as the “jiffygate” scandal because UKADA was never able to prove exactly what was in the jiffy bag flown to Tour de France winning-cyclist Bradley Wiggins, it yesterday was dubbed “stiffygate” by The Sun newspaper as Sutton hit back at the claims from Freeman’s barrister, Mary O’Rourke QC.
Freeman, who had initially denied any knowledge of the testosterone, has now admitted ordering the drug but claimed it was for Sutton’s personal use to combat his erectile issues.
That idea was angrily dismissed as Sutton turned on O’Rourke and blasted: “You are telling the press I can’t get a hard on. My wife wants to testify that you are a bloody liar.”
At the height of the furious exchanges, Sutton, who slammed his fist down on the table in front of him at one point, claimed he was being “dragged into a s***-fight”.
Sutton said it was O’Rourke, not him, who was the “bully” and was “accusing me of all kinds of things”.
O’Rourke told the hearing that Sutton was “a habitual and serial liar, a doper with a doping history”.
In turn, Sutton accused Freeman of being “a spineless individual” and maintained he had no knowledge of the delivery, suggesting he was willing “to swear on my three-year-old daughter’s life” he was telling the truth.
“My career spanned 100 tests. Every one was negative. You have called me a serial liar but I am prepared to take a lie-detector test,” the NSW born 62-year-old said.
“I thought (Freeman) was a bloody good doctor and a friend. But he isn’t prepared to look his friend in the eye.”
Sutton resigned as technical director of British Cycling in 2016 after he was accused of using sexist and discriminatory language against members of the team — claims he strenuously denied.
After his abrupt departure from the witness stand, Sutton stopped on the steps outside the inquiry to suggest he would discuss with his family whether to return to give more evidence.
“I’m pretty disappointed at the way I’ve been singled out. I feel like I’m the one on trial,” he said. “What I can say is that I know full well that I never made that order.”
At the start of the hearing, in which the GMC has laid 22 charges against Freeman – 18 of which have now been accepted – the former Team Sky medic admitted he had “told a lot of lies” in the past.
The GMC claim Freeman ordered the drug for an unnamed rider to take but the doctor insisted it was a personal demand by Sutton which he was forced to follow against his will.
Freeman was implicated in the initial “jiffygate” probe which followed the delivery of a package to Wiggins during a race in France in 2011.
After a 14-month inquiry by UK anti-doping, which saw Freeman claim his computer containing all the relevant medical information had been stolen when he was on holiday, the case was ended.
This article was originally published by The Sun and reproduced with permission