SII Focus 17th March 2016

Skafidas & Wilson bans mark the end of a long affair

Former athletics coach Dr George Skafidas has received a lifetime ban a lifetime ban from all sport following nine Anti-Doping Rule Violations and British sprinter Bernice Wilson has received a back-dated 10-month ban after being charged with a second anti-doping rule violation.

Skafidas was was convicted after admitting to all nine charges, including the administration, possession and trafficking of prohibited substances, as well as tampering by knowingly providing false information and misleading Wilson. One of the more remarkable outcomes of the case however, was the 75% reduction in Wilson’s sanction, from 40 months to 10 months.

Wilson, who was sanctioned alongside Skafidas, has received the biggest reduction that WADA can offer. “No more than three- quarters of the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility may be suspended”,” reads the Code (Article 10.6.1.1). In one of the examples of the “Application of Article 10 (sanctions to individuals)”, upon the approval of WADA in “exceptional circumstances” however, the “maximum suspension of the period of Ineligibility for Substantial Assistance may be greater than three-quarters”. There is yet to be a case in which an athlete has had their sanction reduced by more than 75%.

Only by satisfying several conditions will the 75% reduction be recommended. Under the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Rules, which the National Anti-Doping Appeal Panel referenced, a person providing ‘Substantial Assistance’ must:

1. fully disclose in a signed written statement all information he possesses in relation to anti-doping rule violations and

2. fully co-operate with the investigation and adjudication of any case related to that information, including, for example, presenting testimony at a hearing if requested to do so by the prosecuting authority or hearing panel. Further, the information provided must be credible and must comprise an important part of any case which is initiated or, if no case is initiated, must have provided a sufficient basis on which a case could have been brought.

The sentencing of both Skafidas and Wilson brings to a close an investigation into doping in UK Athletics that has spanned a number of years. Skafidas was provisionally suspended by UK Athletics in November last year after being charged with committing anti-doping rule violations.

Bernice Wilson, a former GB sprinter, first received a 4-year suspension in June 2011 after a positive drugs test. At the time, according to Athletics Weekly, ‘when Wilson was asked at a UKAD hearing to state any substances that might have led to the adverse finding, she mentioned a “multi-vitamin” drink provided by Skafidas.’

Skafidas in fact represented Wilson at her hearing before the National Anti-Doping Panel in September 2011, something which the investigating panel reportedly flagged as a potential for a conflict of interest.

However, after an adjournment in proceedings, both Wilson and Skafidas reportedly clarified that it was ‘no part of her defence or mitigation to suggest the drink as a possible source of the illegal substances.’ Only now has it come to light that during this hearing, Skafidas ‘knowingly provided false information to the panel and was thus guilty of conduct which subverted the doping control process and constituted a breach of the rules against tampering.’

In response to the sentences, UKAD Chief Executive, Nicole Sapstead said that Skafidas, ‘and others like him, have absolutely no place in sport’, and applauded the serving of a lifetime ban. Wilson’s ineligibility from all sport ran from 12 February 2015 to 11 December 2015 and she is now able to return to competition.

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