Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
An Independent Review into UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD) handling of information on alleged doping of elite athletes by Dr. Mark Bonar has re-iterated that it should have contacted the General Medical Council (GMC). It also found that despite hearing his evidence, UKAD failed to get cyclist Dan Stevens to sign a cooperation statement, as would be required for a reduction in his sanction for ‘substantial assistance’ under the World Anti-Doping Code.
In April, the Sunday Times published an exposé of Dr. Bonar, in which he claimed to have doped over 150 professional athletes. The allegations were partly corroborated by former Chelsea coach Rob Brinded, who allegedly introduced many athletes to Dr. Bonar.
The information about Dr. Bonar was given to UKAD in 2014 by cyclist Dan Stevens, who in 2015 went to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) after UKAD decided that his evidence did not warrant a reduction for ‘substantial assistance’ as defined in the World Anti-Doping Code, and issued him with a two-year ban. UKAD subsequently reduced the sanction after the CIRC recommended reducing Stevens’ ban, but did not publicise the reduction.
‘It is difficult to understand why no contact was in fact made with the GMC when that course of action was suggested on at least seven occasions, either by members of UKAD or by the athlete and his legal representatives, throughout 2014’, reads the Review (PDF below). ‘The very definition of ‘substantial assistance’ for the purposes of 10.5.3 [10.6.1] requires that a participant must provide a signed written statement and must fully co-operate with the investigation, which may include testifying at a hearing if requested to do so […] Despite finally taking possession of an unsigned statement and documentary prescription evidence supporting the account provided by the athlete regarding the activities of Bonar, the Review can find no evidence that any further action was taken in relation to these documents or against Bonar, save for the discussions with an independent doctor and, surprisingly, still no contact was made with the GMC until after the Sunday Times article.’
The Review said that the case highlighted issues around the definition of what constitutes ‘substantial assistance’ under Article 10.6.1 of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. ‘We therefore recommend that UKAD, in agreement with WADA, reviews and clarifies article 10.6.1 of the World Anti-Doping Code in relation to the status of athletes who decide to provide substantial assistance’, read a statement, which added: ‘The decision that the information provided by the athlete should not be regarded as substantial assistance, under the current regulations, was correct. However this is a subjective decision and we would argue that in this case the decision determined by UKAD was harsh. The source identified another athlete who was then prioritised for testing by UKAD and two events were also targeted – it is without question that the testers would not have been at either event had it not been for the source’s information. In our opinion, the source should have been credited with providing that intelligence by UKAD reducing the length of his ban. It is clear to us that opportunities to gather intelligence, secure evidence, and investigate Bonar have been missed’.
The Independent Review was led by former Merseyside Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Ward. Ward was appointed to the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) from January 2014, having retired in 2004. UKAD’s Head of Intelligence and Investigations, Mario Theophanous, also worked at SOCA until 2011. Pat Myhill, UKAD’s Director of Operations, also worked at SOCA, the predecessor of the National Crime Agency (NCA), from 2006 to 2013.
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