The government has ordered an inquiry into the UK Anti-Doping Agency (Ukad) over its handling of an investigation into alleged doping activities by a British doctor involving Premier League footballers and other leading athletes.
According to a Sunday Times investigation, Mark Bonar – a London-based private doctor – charges sports stars thousands of pounds for drug programmes.
The newspaper says it has secretly filmed the medic claiming that he has prescribed performance-enhancing drugs such as EPO, steroids and human growth hormone to 150 elite sports professionals from the UK and abroad over the past six years, including:
- several Premier League footballers
- an England cricket international
- British cyclists
- tennis players
There is no suggestion that any Premier League clubs were aware of any alleged wrongdoing and the Sunday Times says it has no independent evidence Bonar treated the players.
Bonar has told the Sunday Times he treated the athletes for medical reasons and not to enhance their performance. There is no suggestion the substances were illegal.
Athletes contacted by the newspaper either denied Bonar had treated them or declined to comment.
The government investigation stems from claims made by a whistleblower athlete who was banned for breaching anti-doping rules in 2014.
According to the newspaper, the sportsman – who wishes to remain anonymous – approached Ukad with evidence that indicated Bonar had allegedly prescribed him performance-enhancing drugs.
Ukad says it did begin an investigation into Bonar but found that he was outside of its jurisdiction as he was not governed by a sport, and decided not to pass the case to the General Medical Council (GMC) or to contact him.
The Sunday Times – in collaboration with an aspiring athlete – then secretly recorded Bonar allegedly prescribing a series of prohibited drugs to the runner. It is claimed that Bonar then went on to talk about the other sportspeople he says he treated.
The paper further claims that, according to the GMC, Bonar is currently registered without a licence to practise.
He is also facing a misconduct tribunal later this month. It is unrelated to allegations of doping.
Ukad told the BBC it would conduct an independent review into the case.
‘No room for complacency’
“I am shocked and deeply concerned by these allegations,” Culture, Media and Sport Secretary John Whittingdale said in a statement.
“I have asked for there to be an urgent independent investigation into what action was taken when these allegations were first received and what more needs to be done to ensure that British sport remains clean.
“There is no room for complacency in the fight against doping and the government is already looking at whether existing legislation in this area goes far enough. If it becomes clear that stronger criminal sanctions are needed then we will not hesitate to act.”
In response to Sunday Times article, Ukad chief executive Nicole Sapstead said the organisation was “deeply concerned and shocked by the allegations”.
“When you’re looking at a sport like football that commands the sort of salaries that the players can command, its fanbase, its ticket sales, its broadcasting rights – if that isn’t a risk then I don’t know what is, notwithstanding the physical demands of the sport itself,” she said.
“Add that into a nice big mix and you’ve got everything pointing to a doping issue.”
In response, the Football Association said Sapstead’s comments were “speculative” and “unhelpful”, adding that they had no “evidential basis”.
A recent BBC Sport investigation learned that only eight drugs tests were conducted in Scottish football over a nine-month period between April and December 2015. There were 1,583 tests in English football over the same period.
Former Partick Thistle player Jordan McMillan is the only British footballer currently banned by Ukad, for taking cocaine.