Gerben Thijssen: Team optimistic cyclist will recover from Ghent Six Day crash

Gerben Thijssen and Moreno De Pauw

Gerben Thijssen (left) was paired with 2017 winner Moreno de Pauw (right) for this year’s Ghent Six Day

There is “optimism” Gerben Thijssen will recover from his heavy crash on the first night of racing at the Ghent Six Day, according to the Belgian rider’s team Lotto Soudal.

Thijssen is in intensive care after three small brain haemorrhages.

The 21-year-old also fractured three ribs and a collarbone in the crash.

“Less than 18 hours after his terrible crash, Gerben was able to have a small conversation with his family,” his team said on Twitter.

Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who won the event with Bradley Wiggins in 2016, bounced back from his opening night crash to win the second Derny race on Wednesday.

Cavendish sat out the first madison event on the opening night after crashing in the one-lap time trial.

The 34-year-old, who this year is partnered with seven-time winner Iljo Keisse, was not seriously injured but had to withdraw from the remainder of Tuesday’s racing.

Keisse and Cavendish, who has called the Ghent Six Day, the “Tour de France of track cycling”, are now in sixth overall, out of 14 teams, on 58 points.

They are a lap down on current leaders, Germany’s Roger Kluge and Theo Reinhardt, who have 59 points.

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Freeman faced ‘constant attrition’ from Sutton

Dr Richard Freeman interviewed by BBC Sport

Dr Richard Freeman claims he was bullied into ordering the package of banned substances for Shane Sutton

Dr Richard Freeman suffered “constant attrition” from former British Cycling performance director Shane Sutton, the medic’s tribunal has heard.

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Freeman is being assessed for his fitness to practise after admitting 18 of 22 charges against him.

He denies ordering banned substance testosterone to the National Cycling Centre in 2011, knowing or believing it was to boost an athlete’s performance.

Freeman claims he was bullied into ordering the package for Sutton, which the Australian denies.

On another extraordinary day at the tribunal in Manchester, former British Cycling physio Phil Burt described the “deteriorating relationship” between Dr Freeman and Sutton, and said the pair had a “monumental falling-out” over payment of a plane ticket in 2015.

In other evidence to the tribunal:

  • Burt said he received a “veiled threat” from Sutton, but he wasn’t bullied
  • Sutton accused Burt and Freeman of being whistleblowers in Jess Varnish’s allegations against British Cycling
  • It was alleged by Dr Freeman’s defence that Sutton asked the doctor to make up a back problem to support his case to drop Varnish from the cycling team.
  • Burt said the package containing the testosterone also contained a contraceptive pill but no Viagra.
  • Burt admitted opening Dr Freeman’s packages, but did not want to know what was inside them.

Burt, who left British Cycling in 2018, told the tribunal he opened the package delivered to the National Cycling Centre in 2011, which containing 30 sachets of Testogel.

He said of Sutton’s behaviour towards Dr Freeman: “There were verbal confrontations, passing remarks, constant attrition.

“One example sticks in the mind after the 2015 falling-out.”

He then reported Sutton as saying: “The doc looks like he’s losing weight, I’ve got him where I want him.”

Burt continued: “All people heard that. At that time, Shane was just riding on [Freeman’s] case on the time, chasing him. I witnessed it. These problems were historical and had gone on for a long time.”

Burt also told the tribunal how the pair’s relationship broke down after Dr Freeman wanted to return early from the Track World Cup in Colombia in 2015.

“Richard had a bereavement and wanted to go home. He arranged a flight, couldn’t get it so got the next one,” Burt said. “Richard thought it was reasonable that British Cycling would pay for it, but Shane didn’t and they fought over it for a long period of time. They couldn’t let go.”

Dr Freeman has accused Sutton of bullying him into ordering the Testogel to treat the Australian’s alleged erectile dysfunction.

Burt said he himself had not been bullied by the Australian, who stormed out of the tribunal on Tuesday after being labelled by Freeman’s defence lawyer Mary O’Rourke as a “liar, doper and a bully”.

O’Rourke also asked Burt about an interview he had given to the Anne-Marie Phelps report into the culture at British Cycling in 2017. In it, Burt admitted to having “difficult conversations and some of them are not very pleasant at all. I received a veiled threat but not bullying”.

‘Freeman stood up to Sutton on Varnish case’

There were also several revealing exchanges regarding former British Cycling team member Varnish, who said she was victim of a “cover-up” regarding her sexism allegations while in the team.

She was dropped by the body in 2016, and a subsequent British Cycling investigation found that Sutton had used sexist language towards Varnish, but cleared him of bullying.

At the tribunal, O’Rourke claimed Sutton had wanted Dr Freeman to say that, such was the nature of Varnish’s back problem, she would not have won a medal in any event. She added that Dr Freeman refused Sutton’s demand.

Burt told the tribunal: “Richard never mentioned that to me, but I can imagine him standing up to that.”

The tribunal also heard O’Rourke describe Sutton’s reaction to claims Dr Freeman and Burt might have been whistleblowers in Varnish’s case against British Cycling.

“I saw Sutton and he accused the two of us in the corridor,” Burt said. “I said I had no idea what you’re taking about. It was quite unsettling – he was quite conciliatory, saying we’ve got to get on.

“Richard said Shane had threatened to check his phone and laptop.”

Burt gives conflicting evidence on packages

Earlier in proceedings, the tribunal heard the contents of the package delivered to British Cycling in 2011 described, and the drugs that were also on the order.

On Thursday, former British Cycling head of medicine Dr Steve Peters had told the tribunal he had been “led to believe” that the delivery also contained Viagra.

But O’Rourke said on Friday that was not the case. There were five items on the invoice, including the Testogel. The other medication was several packets of the contraceptive pill, an asthma drug (Montelukast), a facewash for acne, and an antihistamine (Valoid).

Burt gave conflicting evidence about whether it was normal for him to open the delivery on the day the testosterone arrived at the Manchester velodrome.

He said: “I wouldn’t open Richard’s parcels because I didn’t want to understand what he’s getting and what or who it’s for.”

But he later told the tribunal: “We did open each other’s packages.”

The hearing is adjourned until Wednesday.

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Ex-British Cycling head of medicine doubts Freeman’s testosterone claim

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman outside the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester

Dr Richard Freeman denies ordering testosterone with the knowledge it would be used to enhance athletic performance

British Cycling’s former head of medicine has cast doubt on Dr Richard Freeman’s claims that testosterone was delivered to its headquarters on behalf of Shane Sutton.

Dr Steve Peters told Freeman’s medical tribunal that if 30 sachets of Testogel were ordered for Sutton in 2011, he would have known about it.

Ex-British Cycling technical director Sutton has denied it was for him.

Dr Freeman has claimed it was to treat Sutton’s alleged erectile dysfunction.

At the hearing on Thursday, Dr Peters spoke of Sutton boasting about the number of partners he had and how testosterone could help his sexual performance, but he said the drug was more likely to be for Dr Freeman.

“It feels like I’m being asked being to solve the crime,” Dr Peters said.

“I have a man who’s lied to me, another man who is untrustworthy. It’s much more likely [Freeman] has used this for himself and there are reasons for that, which I don’t want to go into.

“Freeman has tried to cover his tracks and it’s backfired.

“Shane would have confided in me. He is very open. He came to me many times discussing his private life.”

Former British Cycling and Team Sky medic Freeman is appearing at an independent medical practitioners tribunal to determine his fitness to practise medicine, having been charged with ordering testosterone knowing or believing it was to enhance an athlete’s performance.

He denies that claim, but has admitted to 18 of 22 charges against him, including lying to UK Anti-Doping and asking supplier Fit4Sport to falsely claim the Testogel had been sent in error.

His lawyer Mary O’Rourke QC said he was “not fit to attend” on Thursday or Friday after a confrontational day at the tribunal on Tuesday.

She said he had “an adverse reaction” after he was called “spineless” by former colleague Sutton.

Australian Sutton did not return to give evidence on Thursday, having angrily left the hearing on Tuesday after repeatedly denying claims by O’Rourke that he is “a liar, a doper and a bully”.

Sutton was not compelled to give evidence and was appearing voluntarily as a witness for the General Medical Council (GMC) at the hearing.

Dr Peters, who was at British Cycling until 2014 and was Freeman’s boss, also doubted the GMC’s claim that testosterone would be ordered to the National Cycling Centre if it was to be used for doping.

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Thijssen in intensive care after heavy crash at Ghent Six Day

Gerben Thijssen and Moreno De Pauw

Gerben Thijssen (left) was paired with 2017 winner Moreno De Pauw (right) for this year’s Ghent Six Day

Belgium’s Gerben Thijssen is in intensive care after being injured in a heavy crash in the first night of racing at the Ghent Six Day.

The Lotto Soudal rider, 21, suffered three small brain haemorrhages and fractured three ribs and a collarbone.

He will have further examinations on Wednesday and is expected to remain in intensive care for up to three days.

“Gerben remained conscious at all times,” said team spokesperson Philippe Maertens. “His condition is stable.”

Thijssen crashed on the last lap of the supersprint after making contact with Denmark’s Oliver Wulff Frederiksen.

He was attended to on track and, after a request by the other riders, the crash brought an early halt to the night’s racing.

Britain’s Mark Cavendish also crashed during the one-lap time-trial but the 34-year-old, who won the event with Bradley Wiggins in 2016, was not seriously injured.

This year Cavendish is partnered with seven-time winner Iljo Keisse, who paired with Jonas Rickaert as Cavendish was sidelined for the madison.

After the first day, Jules Hesters and Otto Vergaerde lead with 46 points, one point ahead of 2018 runners-up Kenny de Ketele and Robbe Ghys.

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Furious Sutton storms out of medical tribunal after ‘doper’ claim

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman outside the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester

Dr Richard Freeman denies ordering testosterone with the knowledge it would be used to enhance athletic performance

Ex-British Cycling technical director and Team Sky head coach Shane Sutton furiously denied claims he is a “doper” before storming out of Dr Richard Freeman’s medical tribunal.

Dr Freeman alleges the testosterone he ordered to British Cycling headquarters in 2011 was on behalf of Sutton.

In staggering, confrontational exchanges between Sutton and Dr Freeman’s lawyer, Mary O’Rourke QC, Sutton repeatedly denied this and her claim he doped during his racing career.

A livid Sutton then left the tribunal in Manchester after calling Dr Freeman “spineless”.

An official could not persuade Sutton to return and he is set to decide on Wednesday whether he will resume giving evidence, as planned, on Thursday.

The tribunal is set to resume at 11:30 GMT on Thursday, with Wednesday a planned day off.

Former British Cycling and Team Sky medic Dr Freeman is facing an allegation he ordered 30 Testogel sachets to the National Cycling Centre in May 2011 knowing or believing it was intended for an athlete to enhance performance, which he denies.

Sutton’s highly anticipated first appearance at the tribunal started at 14:00 after a day-and-a-half delay because of private legal argument.

In a public session before Sutton gave evidence, Miss O’Rourke said the defence’s case is that Sutton is a “habitual and serial liar” as well and “a doper, with a doping history”.

During a remarkable afternoon session on Tuesday:

  • Miss O’Rourke said she had evidence from an anonymous witness who saw Sutton inject himself with testosterone at his home in Rowley Regis in the late 1990s
  • Sutton strenuously denied the claim, calling it “laughable” and that he had never tested positive in around 100 tests during his career
  • Miss O’Rourke claimed several witnesses had come forward in the last two weeks to say Sutton is “a liar, a doper and a bully”
  • He told Miss O’Rourke he would “do you for defamation” and that he wanted her to “retract” that claim because she had “no evidence”
  • Sutton repeatedly told Dr Freeman to “take down the screen”, “man up” and “look me in the eye”
  • Miss O’Rourke said that Sutton had sent Dr Freeman a text at the end of last year that read: “Be careful what you say, don’t drag me in, you won’t be the only person I can hurt”
  • Referring to Dr Freeman’s claim that the testosterone was to treat Sutton’s alleged erectile dysfunction, the Australian said: “My wife wants to come here and testify you’re a liar”
  • Sutton swore on the life of his three-year-old daughter he did not order the delivery of Testogel in 2011 and said he was willing to take a lie detector test if needed
  • Sutton said he had “no idea” why Dr Freeman had ordered the Testogel but that he “would’ve helped him work out a way through it” if Freeman had come to him at the time
  • He called Miss O’Rourke a “bully” and criticised her for what “you’ve put my family through”
  • Sutton denied knowing Testogel was used by riders involved in high-profile doping cases such as Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong

Sutton’s parting rant

After around two hours of increasingly hostile exchanges during Miss O’Rourke’s cross-examination on Tuesday, Sutton announced he was leaving the hearing and departed with an extraordinary rant.

Despite calling Dr Freeman a “good friend”, Sutton made a series of claims about his former colleague and called him “spineless” for sitting behind a screen as Sutton gave evidence.

“I’m going to leave the hearing now, I don’t need to be dragged through this,” said Sutton.

“I’m going to go back to my little hole in Spain, enjoy my retirement, sleep at night knowing full well I didn’t order any [testosterone] patches.

“The person lying to you is behind the screen, hopefully one day he will come clean and tell you why. He’s a good bloke, a good friend, I’ve no argument with him.

“I’m happy with what I achieved in my career, I wish Richard Freeman all the best going forward, no one is better bedside than him.

“Dr Freeman went through a messy divorce, he turned up to work drunk on several occasions – he was like the Scarlet Pimpernel.

“I covered for him when we couldn’t get hold of him.

“I’m not lying, I’ve told the truth, don’t ask me any more questions.

“I’m not getting dragged by this mindless little individual [O’Rourke] living in her sad world, who is defending someone who has admitted to telling a million lies to you and the rest of the world but can’t come out and tell the truth.

“He is hiding behind a screen, which is spineless, Richard, you’re a spineless individual.”

The hearing, which is to determine Dr Freeman’s fitness to practise medicine, continues.

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