The trouble with Ostarine: Jimmy Wallhead’s
16th March 2018
The United Kingdom has not gone down the road of criminalising doping travelled by other countries, however it often works closely with the police, as two recent appointments underline. In May, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) appointed Pat Myhill as Director of Operations, a role that had become vacant due to Nicole Sapstead’s appointment as UKAD Chief Executive.
Myhill’s promotion meant that UKAD was able to appoint another ex-policeman, Mario Theophanous, as Head of Intelligence and Investigations. The two ex-coppers know each other – indeed they worked together at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the predecessor of the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The 2015 World Anti-Doping Code contained a new requirement for anti-doping organisations to actively investigate any intelligence that may assist in anti-doping (Article 5.8.3 of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code). Having policemen on board certainly helps with this. Due to the daily contact that UKAD has with police organisations and the border force, it also helps to have people at UKAD that are familiar with the protocol, procedures and language that these organisations use.
In this exclusive interview with the Sports Integrity Initiative, Myhill explains how experience with police work assists with the fight against doping. He also discusses how UKAD plans to deal with the biggest threats to clean sport, and tackle the chain of supply that is resulting in performance-enhancing drugs becoming ever more widely available.
The SII: How have your first couple of months been since your appointment as UKAD’s Director of Operations?
Myhill: “Really good! It has been a controlled transition from one job to another. Even before I got this role, I had picked up some of the responsibilities involved. We shared them around when Nicole Sapstead was promoted to Chief Executive. When I was appointed, I was still doing my old job as Head of Intelligence and Investigations. I’ve been picking up the new responsibilities while maintaining and handing over my old role to Mario. I am really excited to be in this job. It’s a great place to work, I like what we do and I’m delighted to be here.”
The SII: I noticed that UKAD have also recently appointed Mario Theophanous as your replacement as Head of Intelligence and Investigations. Given that you both have a background in police work, do you have any experience of working together?
Myhill: “Yes, we do actually! We had a huge amount of interest in the role. When I was looking through all of the applications, I realised that I knew quite a few of the people who had applied. I know Mario from about 2002/3, which is when we last worked together as we were both seconded to the National Crime Squad. Our careers went in different directions after that. Mario moved to intelligence collecting, and I moved elsewhere in the organisation. So yes, we do know each other, but it has been quite a few years since we last worked together.”
The SII: In the past, it has been suggested that police have shown little interest in following up doping cases unless there’s proven criminal activity, as they have more pressing areas which need investigating first. In your view, should the police take a more active interest in policing doping in sport?
Myhill: “We have really good relationships with our law enforcement partners. We recently signed an information sharing agreement with the National Crime Agency. In effect, it was a renewal of an agreement that we had with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) since 2010. Due to SOCA morphing – for want of a better word – into the National Crime Agency (NCA), we figured that it was a good time to readdress that relationship.”
“We also work with other partners, such as the Immigration Service, the Border Force, and with CrimeStoppers – who run our Report Doping in Sport line. We work on a local level and we’ve had lots of exchanges with local police forces. All of these organisations help us to deal with the suppliers of performance-enhancing drugs.”
“We get information from the Border Force pretty much every day on substance seizures. We are able to take that information and see if we can find links to sport. You only have to look at our internet site to see that there are a number of cases where we’ve worked with the Border Force. Like everyone else, I would always like more of these sort of relationships, and we’ll keep pushing for more organisations to work with us.”
The SII: Does experience with police work help with investigating doping cases?
Myhill: “It helps on a number of different levels. On a practical basis, having experience with law enforcement helps you develop better working relationships as you understand the system. It helps when we are interviewing athletes or support personnel, and it helps to maintain trust between us and our law enforcement partners.”
“In different organisations, different language is used. Anti-doping has a language of its own and in law enforcement, it’s the same. If you’re working with law enforcement and you can reassure them that you know what they’re talking about, that you know how to handle intelligence, that you can be a trusted partner, it’s always going to help build and develop that relationship.”
The SII: In the 2015 Code, there is a requirement for anti-doping organisations to actively investigate instances of doping. How has UKAD been actively implementing this requirement?
Myhill: “It’s not been a difficult thing for us in any way whatsoever. We have been working on an intelligence-led model since the beginning of UKAD . We’ve been working on intelligence and investigations throughout that time. All of this is fundamentally woven into the way in which we operate.”
“This use of intelligence works through our testing team, it works through our legal team, our education team. We have feelers out all over the place gathering intelligence. So it’s not a big change for us and it is good to see that WADA recognise the role that intelligence and information can play in protecting clean sport.”
The SII: I noticed in UKAD’s annual report that you expect a funding cut in 2016, and that UKAD had spent half the amount on intelligence in 2015 than it had in 2014. Given the requirement to investigate doping in the 2015 Code, will you now have to investigate doping using less funding?
Myhill: “As a publicly funded body, we have to operate within the budget that is available to us. As our costs change, we have to adapt and mature as an organisation. We have to do more things in house than we did in 2010, for example.”
“The figures you refer to about our intelligence function in the annual report may seem on the face of it that spending on intelligence has been cut. However, the figure in the annual report is the operational budget and doesn’t include staff costs.The number of people employed to carry out this activity has remained the same since 2010. We have no plans to change that. We spent a little bit more operationally in 2014 than we did in 2015, but actually the overall budget was the same. Given the nature of what we do, sometimes you need to spend a little bit more on certain activities, and sometimes you don’t need. That number is always going to fluctuate – so it can look like a budget cut, but actually it isn’t.”
The SII: Some countries – such as Italy – have criminalised doping in sport and others – such as Germany – are considering going down that road. Can you ever see the UK government taking this road?
Myhill: “I don’t think that anyone has the desire to criminalise doping in sport in the UK. There was a conversation about this in 2008, as we were preparing for the London 2012 Games, but it is not something that UKAD wants to see. However, the reality of it is that many of the activities around doping – for example the supply, or the intent to supply etc. – are already criminal offences. Many of the substances involved are ‘class C’ drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and it’s still an offence to possess and supply them. The good thing about that is that it does give us leeway to work with law enforcement agencies to tackle the supply chain and not just the end user.”
The SII: I understand that you cannot talk about ongoing investigations, however the IAAF recently said that media ‘exposés’ involving current investigations can often jeopardise anti-doping efforts. What are your views on this?
Myhill: “There is definitely the potential for the media to derail investigations. However this is not just the case in doping investigations, it is the case in any investigation. It is certainly the case in law enforcement, where people stay away from commentary about investigations. Sometimes it doesn’t help and can undermine what we are trying to do. But we also want the media to help us build public confidence in the system by reporting on what we do, when the time is right, so it’s a fine balance.”
The SII: How do the intelligence operations of different NADOs – such as UKAD – link up? Obviously there is iNADO, but is any informal information sharing done?
Myhill: “We talk to each other a lot. We work with WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency], we work with other national doping agencies and international sporting federations, as these are also moving into intelligence and investigations capability. WADA very helpfully set up a group for investigators, which meets regularly. A couple of times each year, we sit down and talk through issues with each other, such as successes and how we do things.”
“The great thing about this – of course – is that we meet face to face and this helps with networking and people trusting each other. We do share information with each other and we do try to work together where possible. We are stronger if we cooperate with each other, and I think that we’ll see more examples of this sort of activity in the future.”
“As recently as last year, when the Tour de France came here, we worked with the CADF (Cycling Anti Doping Foundation) and the French anti-doping authorities to implement their anti-doping programme. We work with many National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs). They are great relationships, are very productive, and I hope that they continue.”
The SII: What, in your view, is the biggest threat to clean sport?
Myhill: “The availability of substances online. You can get hold of most substances quickly and cheaply. The danger is that you really don’t know what you’re going to get. Customers can go to a very professional looking website, but often they are just not getting what they are paying for. Either the substance isn’t what it says it is, or it is contaminated with something else.”
“The internet also means that these substances are readily available to young people. All they need is the ability to pay for something and they can get hold of substances – such as steroids – very easily. The people that are providing these substances are often making it in their own homes. If people were to see the way that these substances are put together, they just wouldn’t buy them and wouldn’t use them.”
The SII: How can we protect against people buying and using these substances?
Myhill: “The key is education. We need to make people aware of the risks and educate them that although they think they’re buying one thing, they’re actually buying something completely different, which is often produced in pretty horrible circumstances. We also have to make sure that athletes understand the rules and the risks involved.”
“We’ll continue to work with our law enforcement partners, we’ll keep intercepting the packages, we’ll keep policing sport, and we won’t ever stop doing that. We’ll also work to combat the supply chain – to use the terminology, we’ll ‘move upstream’. We need to be ambitious and make inroads in this area.”
“This is not just a sport problem – it’s a society problem and a health problem. It pervades in more areas than just sport. The use of steroids, particularly, I think is growing. UKAD can’t tackle this issue on our own. We need to work with our partners in law enforcement, health and other areas in order to get to the crux of the problem.”
The SII: Would you like to see the government regulate against supplement companies, such as how they market their products online?
Myhill: “UKAD can’t regulate the internet. In terms of such products being advertised, it’s very difficult for us to stop that. We have to work with our partners and the people that we have relationships with, in order to tackle this problem together. That includes government, health and law enforcement.”
• To read an interview with Nicole Sapstead, UKAD’s CEO, please click here.
If you have a concern that doping is taking place, share your concerns in confidence with UKAD. To talk to a highly-trained operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call 08000 32 23 32. If you’d prefer not to speak to anyone, report your concerns online via www.reportdoping.com.
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