Dr Richard Freeman tribunal hears that Shane Sutton found an empty phial of EPO in his car at Welsh race

Richard Freeman's tribunal has lasted two years 

Credit: PA

Tony Cooke, the father of 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, told a medical tribunal on Monday that Shane Sutton discovered an empty phial of EPO in his car at the Five Valleys road race when he was national coach of Wales.

Cooke was called as a witness for the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman, who is accused of ordering testosterone for an unnamed rider in 2011. 

Freeman has admitted to 18 of 22 charges in his fitness-to-practise hearing but denies that central charge, insisting he ordered the drug to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. Sutton has rejected the claims and called Freeman a “liar”. The hearing was due to finish by Thursday, but will now run into a third year.

Under cross-examination from the General Medical Council’s QC Simon Jackson, Cooke told the tribunal on Monday that he had heard a story relating to a phial of banned blood booster EPO at the Five Valleys road race. 

It was not specified at which edition of the race the incident took place but Sutton was coach at Welsh Cycling in the late 1990s before joining British Cycling in 2002.

Cooke said he heard from Sutton’s driver at that race that both men had left the car unattended and returned to find the empty phial in it. “Your informant said Mr Sutton was very angry about this being left in the car in which he was travelling?” Jackson asked. “He thought it had been left there deliberately by a rider?” 

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

“But you also say you felt uncomfortable that the Welsh national coach would have recognised a phial of EPO ?" continued Jackson. 

“That was the point,” Cooke said. “I interpreted it at the time as Mr Sutton rightly being angry. Why was it there? Etc But how would one know in such a short space of time? Mr Sutton was obviously able to recognise it according to the account given to me.”

Cooke also alleged that he and his daughter went to UK Anti-Doping with a number of concerns in 2013, including concerns about Sutton, but said that none of them were acted upon. 

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