Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Written evidence supplied by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) to the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee has forced it to reveal that it often ‘announces’ that testing will take place at an event in order to target athletes that withdraw. At the hearing, the CMS Committee was critical of UKAD’s decision to announce via Twitter that it would be testing at a cycling event two days before it took place, and demanded a written explanation.
While emphasising that it operates a ‘strict no advance notice testing regime’, UKAD argued that it sometimes publicises the fact that testing will take place, but after the entry lists for that event have closed. ‘Anti-Doping Organisations worldwide know that athletes who are doping and and planning to compete will tend to drop out of events in these circumstances’, argued its written explanation (PDF below), published today. ‘By doing so, they will flag themselves to Anti-Doping Organisations as being athletes who merit closer examination, and potentially targeted for testing away from competition’.
UKAD said that adopting such an approach ‘provides an information and intelligence source without compromising the integrity of the testing at the event’. At the sporting event discussed by former cyclist Dan Stevens during the 14 June CMS Committee hearing, UKAD’s announcement of testing led to information that 13 riders had withdrawn, all of which were targeted in out-of-competition tests. None returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF), however a similar approach adopted involving a 2014 weightlifting event.
UKAD’s written explanation also revealed that UKAD has passed information to the General Medical Council (GMC) four times. As UKAD Chairman David Kenworthy initially explained during the 14 June hearing, UKAD failed to pass information on Dr. Mark Bonar to the GMC Council, despite a note on the file instructing staff to do so. In an April Sunday Times article, Dr. Bonar claimed to have supplied performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to over 150 athletes, including Premier League footballers, an England cricketer, British Tour de France cyclists, a British boxing champion, tennis players, martial arts competitors and more.
“There was a note on the file that it should have gone to the GMC”, Kenworthy told the CMS Committee on 14 June (video below). “For some reason, it didn’t go”. Kenworthy also told the CMS Committee that no staff members had been disciplined as a result of the failure.
At the hearing, Kenworthy explained that all information on Dr. Bonar had been passed to the GMC in October 2015, after the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) recommended that UKAD reduce his ban – a reduction that was not publicised by UKAD. “We have given all the details to the GMC, but what they are doing with it I am afraid I do not know”, he said.
Stevens went to the Sunday Times with information on Dr. Bonar as he ‘did not believe any of the information was investigated properly and I do not believe there was any desire to follow up and investigate the information I provided’. In its initial contact with Stevens, UKAD said that he had given them ‘over 100 names, 69 of which related to sport’ (PDF below). However in relation to Dr. Bonar, Stevens was only able to give details that he was also treating an unnamed boxer.
The UKAD written explanation states that the Sunday Times was only able to pass four names on to it. ‘One of these people was not bound by the World Anti-Doping Code and the other three were known to us’, it states. UKAD also argues that it has been thwarted in its attempts to interview Dr. Bonar, as he ‘insists’ on having Stevens’ written permission to disclose his medical records, a permission that Stevens ‘has so far declined’.
UKAD did not deny Stevens’ claim that it had spent £50,000 on defending itself against allegations that it had not properly investigated information he had provided. ‘UKAD instructed external counsel to assist it with the appeal, such instruction being in part a function of Mr Stevens identifying UKAD Legal staff members as being potential witnesses of fact’, it reads. ‘UKAD also observes that a proposal to “settle” the appeal, made with a view to avoiding significant expenditure on the appeal, was declined by Mr Stevens’.
In the CMS Committee hearing, Stevens was critical of UKAD for not screening the samples of Jonathan Tiernan-Locke for erythropoietin (EPO) at the 2012 Tour of Britain. ‘The Tour of Britain is a UCI sanctioned event and therefore, the tests were commissioned by the UCI and not UKAD’, read its written explanation. ‘Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was tested for erythropoietin (EPO) five times between 23 September 2012 and 12 March 2013. All analyses in these tests produced negative results.’
Irrespective of whether information on Dr. Bonar should have been passed to the GMC earlier, UKAD’s handling of the Dan Stevens case does raise questions about how anti-doping organisations (ADOs) should best approach attempts to provide information on potential anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs). UKAD argues that of the 100 names supplied to it by Stevens in connection to Dr. Bonar, only one – the ‘unnamed boxer’ – was potentially of any use. Even the Sunday Times’ investigative techniques only appear to have expanded this list into four names that UKAD could use – one of which was not bound by the World Anti-Doping Code and three of which were already known to UKAD.
As UKAD consistently points out, it can only take action against those governed by sport – and Dr. Bonar is not governed by sport. However, as the CMS Committee pointed out (PDF of written transcript below), people do not walk through UKAD’s doors with information about potentially crooked doctors very often.
On balance, it appears that this whole situation could have been avoided if UKAD had reported Dr. Bonar to the GMC, and had informed Stevens that it had done so. Although the evidence he provided appeared to have been of little use to UKAD, it could have been useful to the GMC, which at the time was investigating Dr. Bonar in relation to another serious case. The fact that Stevens felt ignored and that nothing was being done appears to have been his primary motivation for going to the Sunday Times. Had UKAD followed up, the resulting ‘exposé’ could have been avoided.