• Shane Sutton in 2015 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Australian Shane Sutton, the former British Cycling and Team Sky head coach, was “absolutely lying” when he told parliament that he had no knowledge of doping in the sport, according to testimony from a former teammate to a medical tribunal on Tuesday.
SBS Cycling Central

26 Nov 2020 - 9:06 AM  UPDATED 26 Nov 2020 - 1:00 PM

Dr Richard Freeman is facing trial over his fitness to practice medicine in front of the General Medical Council (GMC). He has admitted to 18 of the 22 charges laid against him, but not admitted to the central accusation of doping riders during his time as head coach for British Cycling or Team Sky (now INEOS Grenadiers). 

Freeman's admitted charges include ordering the banned substance testosterone in 2011. However, he denies the central charge that it was for a rider – and says it was to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction, something Sutton denied.

Sutton accused in court of doping cover-up
Richard Freeman's barrister has claimed a current British Cycling coach used a Coke can containing urine to try to help Shane Sutton cover up a doping offence during his riding career.
Sutton storms out of tribunal after 'doper', 'serial liar' accusations
Australian Shane Sutton stormed out of the medical tribunal hearing of Dr Richard Freeman on Tuesday afternoon after being accused of being 'a doper' and 'a serial liar'.

Freeman's legal defence team called Sutton's former teammate, Czech rider Kvetoslav Palov, who was on the ANC-Halfords team with Sutton in 1987, to rebut evidence provided by Sutton as a witness for the GMC. Palov claimed that Sutton had been given £10,000 ($AU23,000 or $AU57,035 adjusting for inflation) worth of performance-enhancing drugs that year.

Palov said the drugs had been supplied by Angus Fraser, a cycling soigneur named in a 1990 case settled out of court where USA cycling coaches had been accused of injecting junior athletes with doping substances without their knowledge or consent. 

Palov said he felt compelled to come forward after Sutton told a UK parliament select committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport enquiry into doping in sport in 2016 that he had no personal experience of doping during his cycling career, either as a rider or coach.

“Shane said he had no knowledge of drugs in sport,” said Palov, according to the Guardian, who had a reporter at the hearing. “Given I was a witness to drugs in the Tour de France, syringes in the toilet, it’s a bit hard to say that.”

“Anyone claiming he was a professional cyclist and never saw anyone taking drugs is lying. Anyone who has been in and around pro cycling for so long and isn’t aware of anyone taking drugs is absolutely lying.

“The toilet incident in Edinburgh, there was also an incident at the Tour de France, rumours going around that quite a lot of money had been spent on keeping Shane in the race."

Palov had given a statement about a specific incident in an Edinburgh McDonalds which GMC's counsel, Simon Jackson QC, called into question during Palov's cross-examination.

“I requested that be changed slightly,” admitted Palov, who said that English was not his first language. “There were syringes all over the place. But I had no reason to go there at the same time as Shane. I wouldn’t say I went there with Shane in person.”

“Why did you say: ‘Shane and I went there to the toilets before the start of the first stage’?” asked Jackson. “That suggests you went together. Would you agree?”

“Well yes, the way you put it,” replied Palov. “But to tell you the truth, he may well have been there at the same time.”

Palov also denied an allegation from Jackson that his inconsistencies about the toilet incident meant he had, in effect, submitted a false statement. “I am not saying we went there holding hands, it is not a false statement,” he said. “I’m not here to crucify Shane. You’re trying to play word games. That is ridiculous.”

Also entered into the record was a written statement to the tribunal by Tony Cooke, the father of former British Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, who said that he had provided UK Anti-Doping with evidence that Sutton had used drugs.

He said that he had gone to UKAD in 2013 “and identified to them the ex-teammate of Sutton’s who wished to be taken on the record as having witnessed Sutton using PEDs and giving UKAD other anecdotal evidence to support this account”.

However, he said that UKAD had failed to sufficiently act and was “a significant part of the problem”.

Jackson also read to the tribunal part of an email Cooke had sent to the UKAD chief executive Andy Parkinson.

In the email, Cooke said that both he and Nicole believed Sutton “to be a character we could never trust” but also added that he had never seen Sutton use performance-enhancing drugs, nor did he ever suggest to Nicole that she should. 

Cooke also told the tribunal that Sutton had found an empty phial of EPO in a car at the Five Valleys Road race in Wales, while Sutton was the Welsh national coach.

The account was based on the testimony of an unnamed driver who told Cooke about the incident and Cooke did not specify which year it allegedly took place.  

Jackson said: “Your informant said Mr Sutton was very angry about this being left in the car in which he was travelling. He thought it had been left there deliberately by a rider.

Cooke replied: “That’s correct. My own interpretation of it at the time was one of [Sutton’s] innocence.” 

Cooke added that Sutton, according to his source, was able to recognise the product as EPO.

“Your informant said Mr Sutton was very angry about this being left in the car in which he was travelling? He thought it had been left there deliberately by a rider?” Jackson asked Cooke.

“That’s correct,” replied Cooke. “My own interpretation of it at the time was one of his [Sutton’s] innocence.”

“You also say you felt uncomfortable that the Welsh national coach would have recognised EPO in a vial?” Cooke was asked, to which he replied: “Mr Sutton was obviously able to recognise it, according to the account given to me.”

The tribunal is set to continue, but with evidence likely to continue beyond the next day's hearing, the matter is unlikely to be settled until 2021.