12 April 2021

UKAD accused of failures in supplements case

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has been accused of procedural failures in a 2015 doping case, in which Gareth Warburton and Rhys Williams were given reduced sanctions. An investigation for the Mail on Sunday reveals different results from separate tests in the same laboratory on the same batch of supplements used by the London 2012 Olympians. One result details supplement contamination, the other confirms they were clean.

UKAD and the National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) accepted the results of September 2014 tests at LGC Laboratories on the Mountain Fuel range of supplements to Warburton and Williams. The ‘unchallenged result’ was that the Xtreme Energy Fuel 3283 blackcurrant flavour was found to contain ‘similar prohibited substances’ to those found in the samples of the athletes. 

However, in October 2014 the supplement manufacturer, Cambridge Commodities Limited (CCL), commissioned LGC Group’s Laboratories to test the same batch (1300320). The results came back negative for contamination with any of the substances involved in Warburton and Williams’s positive tests. UKAD admitted that it hadn’t contacted CCL and wasn’t aware of the analysis it had performed until a media report emerged.

Darren Foote, a UK Athletics coach understood to produce the Mountain Fuel range of supplements, recommended them to Warburton and Williams. The NADP accepted Foote’s evidence that CCL hadn’t returned his correspondence. The Mail on Sunday has seen an email from CCL to Foote dated 3 December about test results on four new blends. The NADP hearing (see below or click here for the Decision) took place on 15 December 2014. This appears to contradict Foote’s claim that CCL had not replied to his correspondence.

The NADP accepted that the first run of Mountain Fuel products were produced in 2011 and were batch tested by LGC. A second run was produced in September/October 2013, but was apparently not batch tested. This was the batch used by Warburton and Williams.

The NADP Decision reveals that Foote was careful to tell Warburton and Williams that the “the original batch of products had been tested and that the current batch was made to the same recipe”. He also told the duo that other athletes had used the products and not tested positive. Foote told the Mail on Sunday that he was not involved in the manufacturing or packaging of the supplements at all.

Lawyers for Williams told the Mail on Sunday that UKAD recommended that the supplements could be tested at LGC Group’s Laboratories. In 2010, LGC acquired HFL Sport Science, which was the Laboratory UKAD recommended that British Cycling use to test the urine of British cyclists. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is investigating why UKAD allowed British Cycling to carry out its own testing using a Laboratory that is not accredited by WADA.

Uncommon practice

It is common practice for an anti-doping organisation to allow athletes to carry out testing of substances that might have caused a positive test1. Under anti-doping rules, athletes are considered guilty unless they can prove (emphasis added) their innocence. As such, there is nothing untoward in UKAD allowing Warburton and Williams to conduct their own testing on their own supplements.

However, that UKAD and the NADP apparently accepted evidence that the supplements were contaminated without cross checking that evidence with the manufacturer is of concern. So is a Freedom of Information (FOI) request which illustrates that UKAD vigorously opposed releasing details about the case – albeit with good reason.

In any doping case, it is likely that the athletes, advisors, and the manufacturers involved will seek to absolve themselves of any fault. Warburton and Williams insist that contamination was to blame. So does Foote. The manufacturer insists that contamination at source was ruled out. 

Not all of these statements can be true. It would appear from the Mail on Sunday’s evidence that UKAD and the NADP have failed to discover who is at fault. Given its dogged determination2 in pursuing four year sanctions against many other athletes, critics could be forgiven for asking why Warburton and Williams were allowed to ‘escape’ with bans of six and four months.

1. See: https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/trouble-ostarine-jimmy-wallheads-story; https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/fivb-accepts-furosemide-aaf-due-contamination; https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/statement-from-dayana-yastremska; https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/sonny-webster-statement
2. https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/mark-dry-when-does-a-lie-become-fraud; https://www.ukad.org.uk/news/welsh-rugby-player-jones-banned-four-years

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