Statement – Dr Richard Freeman Tribunal
Following the decision to permanently remove Dr Richard Freeman from the medical register, we can confirm that the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (UK) will be reviewing Dr Freeman’s Fellowship at the earliest opportunity, in line with our standing orders.
Updated 19 March 2021
(First published 12 March)
The medical misconduct tribunal looking at the actions of Dr Richard Freeman during his time at British Cycling and Team Sky has found Dr Freeman guilty of ordering banned testosterone “knowing or believing” it was to be given to a rider to improve their athletic performance. As a result, Dr Freeman has been permanently removed from the medical register.
Following the decision, we can confirm that the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (UK) will be reviewing Dr Freeman’s Fellowship at the earliest opportunity, in line with our standing orders.
The evidence presented over the past few months has revealed a working culture within the sport that is not in keeping with good medical practice. The environment described at the tribunal does not reflect the high professional standards that we as sport and exercise physicians adhere to.
The Faculty recognises the challenges for doctors working in the high-pressure environment of professional sport, where the drive to succeed can sometimes appear at odds with the duty of every physician to act in the best interests of their patient. That is why we have devised a Professional Code that provides clear advice and guidance in close alignment with the GMC’s own guidelines on good medical practice. We would urge all medical professionals working in sport to familiarise themselves with this code, and to embed its principles within their practice.
There are lessons to be learned from this incident. The “win at all costs” mentality revealed during the tribunal can and must be challenged, and indeed many of our members are involved in important work doing just that. Many sporting bodies have already made the changes needed to safeguard both medical professionals working in the field, and the athletes they support. The UK Sport review and subsequent Code for Sports Governance are excellent examples of this.
The progress made in the last few years has been encouraging, but is not enough on its own. We would urge all professional sporting bodies to review their own governance practices, and the Faculty is pleased to offer support to any institution looking to update their clinical governance guidelines. By working together, we can nurture and develop supportive cultures and healthy environments across all professional sports.
Dr John Etherington CBE FFSEM (UK) FRCP
President of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (UK)
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