Medical tribunal hears evidence of cyclists’ ‘syringes all over the place’ in toilet of Edinburgh fast-food restaurant

A medical tribunal has heard evidence of “syringes all over the place from bike riders” in an Edinburgh fast-food restaurant in the 1980s.

Former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman. Picture: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

An ex-teammate of former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton has told a medical tribunal that anyone involved in cycling during the time they rode together would be “absolutely lying” if they denied first-hand knowledge of doping in the sport.

In 2016, Sutton told a Parliamentary Committee under oath that he had no direct knowledge of illicit drug-taking during his time either as a coach or a rider. But Kvetoslav Palov, who was a team-mate of Sutton with ANC Halfords in 1987, disputed the veracity of his statement as he gave evidence during the fitness-to-practise tribunal of former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman.

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“Anybody who has been in professional cycling for so long who claims that he was never aware of anyone taking drugs in the sport is absolutely lying,” Palov told the tribunal.

Freeman has admitted 18 of 22 charges against him, but denies the General Medical Council’s central charge of ordering testosterone “knowing or believing” it was to be used to dope a rider, claiming instead it was to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. Sutton has rejected the claim.

Palov told the tribunal he had been prompted to make his own submission to Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee after learning of Sutton’s evidence, but on Tuesday he was challenged on the accuracy of his own assertions by Simon Jackson QC, acting on behalf of the GMC.

In his statement contradicting Sutton’s claim, Palov recalled the 1987 Tour of Britain and said that prior to the opening stage in Edinburgh, he and Sutton had gone to a toilet at a nearby fast-food restaurant where there were “syringes all over the place from bike riders”.

Asked about the statement by Jackson, Palov said he had tried to amend the wording of it as he had not gone to the toilet at the same time as Sutton, but those changes were not made. He said he could only make a “pretty solid assumption” Sutton had also been there.

“I guess the way I would have meant it at the time was that all the cyclists before the start would have used that toilet,” he said. “I didn’t mean to say I was there at the same time. Who would have known? It was 30 or 40 years ago.

“My point was that if anyone was saying they had no knowledge of drug use it was absolutely not true. That was basically what I was trying to say.”

After Jackson challenged Palov, asking why he had signed the statement as true if he was unhappy with the wording, the Czech-born rider, who has lived in Australia since his retirement in 1991, said English was his second language but argued the details did not alter the meaning of his evidence.

“The point was that Sutton said he had no knowledge of drugs in sport,” he said. “Given I was a witness to drugs in the Tour de France, syringes in the toilet, it’s a bit hard to say that. I wasn’t here to crucify Shane. You’re trying to play word games. That is ridiculous.”

The tribunal continues.

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