29 March 2021

WADA investigating why UKAD allowed British Cycling to conduct private doping probe

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is investigating why UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) allowed British Cycling to conduct its own investigation into an ‘abnormal’ finding involving nandrolone in 2011. An investigation for the Mail on Sunday revealed that following the results of the late 2010 test involving a British cyclist, UKAD allowed British Cycling to conduct urine testing on a group of riders in 2011 to rule out any innocent explanations. It is understood that the testing was carried out in a Laboratory not accredited by WADA.

Nandrolone is a naturally occurring anabolic steroid and elevated levels can occur naturally, or can be recorded due to consumption of contaminated meat or supplements. However, its use is also understood to accelerate the generation of fat free muscle mass, which means that it is commonly abused in sports such as bodybuilding, weightlifting or powerlifting.

It is understood that UKAD informed British Cycling about the abnormal test, after which it formulated an investigation strategy to rule out potentially innocent explanations. This involved batch testing supplements; and using a private laboratory to test nandrolone levels in urine. UKAD approved British Cycling’s use of HFL Sport Science in Cambridge – usually used for equine testing.

It is understood that the batch testing of supplements didn’t reveal any nandrolone contamination. The urine tests by HFL didn’t reveal any indication of naturally occurring elevated nandrolone. The innocent explanations were ruled out.

UKAD argued that sometimes, threshold substances are reported as negative because they exist in the body naturally below a level at which an investigation is called for. Nicole Sapstead, UKAD’s CEO, told the Mail on Sunday that there is nothing improper in speaking to a national federation about trace amounts of threshold substances in a sample.

At the time, for nandrolone to be considered as an adverse analytical finding (AAF), it had to be found at a concentration exceeding 2ng/mL. ‘The detection of the use of nandrolone and other 19-norsteroids is based primarily upon the identification of the main urinary metabolite, 19-norandrosterone (19-NA) in an amount greater than 2 ng/mL’, reads the 2010 WADA Technical Document specific to nandrolone.

However, this wasn’t an AAF. It was an ‘abnormal’ finding flagged up to British Cycling by UKAD. And following British Cycling’s tests, it was still considered abnormal, which is why it was flagged in the first place. 

The results of British Cycling’s experiments are understood to have been discussed by its management team at the time. Specifically, by Performance Director Sir Dave Brailsford, Head Coach Shane Sutton, Head of Medicine Dr. Steve Peters and Team Doctor Dr. Richard Freeman, who earlier this month was struck off the Medical Register for misconduct. A 7 January 2011 email sent by Dr. Freeman to Dr. Peters specifies that the results of the urine analysis for nandrolone are not to be shared with WADA or UKAD.

Extract from the 2009 World Anti-Doping Code, in force at the time…

It is understood that no findings from British Cycling’s tests were ever made public. British Cycling and UKAD told the Mail on Sunday that they have no records about the results of the tests. No further action was taken by UKAD.

WADA told the newspaper that its Intelligence & Investigations Department will be asking UKAD: 

• whether it pursued the potential ADRV, as required by Article 20.5.6 of the World Anti-Doping Code; and

Extract from the 2009 World Anti-Doping Code, in force at the time…

• why it allowed British Cycling to conduct anti-doping tests in a Laboratory not accredited by WADA, as required by Article 6.1 of the Code.

‘We are working with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to investigate claims relating to private testing carried out by British Cycling in 2011’, read a statement from UKAD. ‘UKAD is examining archives to confirm decisions that were taken in 2011 followed due process set by WADA’.

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