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British Cycling and UKAD distance themselves from 'potential wrongdoing' exposed by WADA

UKAD
(Image credit: UKAD)

British Cycling and UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) have both sought to distance themselves from the 'potential wrongdoing' exposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in in relation to a 2011 private testing programme. 

Dubbed 'Operation Echo', WADA's investigation confirmed that British Cycling had conducted a 'study' into supplement contamination, specifically screening for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone using a non-WADA-accredited laboratory.

According to the report, published Tuesday, the study "raises questions as to British Cycling’s compliance with the then applicable (2009) UK National Anti-Doping Policy, and UKAD’s ability to administer that policy".

British Cycling and UKAD have issued statements in response to the report, with both organisations pointing out that the individuals involved no longer work for them, and that no corrective measures were imposed.

British Cycling pointed to the overhaul of its medical practices, which followed a string of controversies and investigations a few years ago, as evidence that "the 2011 events described in the WADA review could not be repeated at British Cycling today".

However, the federation also claims the report establishes 'no fault', and insists the nandrolone study was carried out with the full consent of UKAD. The anti-doping body failed to produce any official records of the study but WADA's investigation established that at least one employee was aware of it. 

"While the member of British Cycling staff who coordinated the 2011 study with UK Anti-Doping left the organisation several years ago, WADA’s finding that this was supported by UKAD is in line with our own understanding of events and attaches no fault to British Cycling or to the riders involved in the study," read the statement from British Cycling. 

"British Cycling only conducted the testing having sought and received the express approval of UKAD’s Director of Legal. We now look forward to assisting UKAD where we can in the audit of their decision-making processes planned by their interim Chief Executive Emily Robinson."

British Cycling also addressed a second allegation in the WADA report, that it had received riders' Biological Passport data from UKAD in 2016. The report found no evidence this took place, with British Cycling confirming that it had requested the data but was turned down.

"The minutes from the meeting record that this proposal was made with the intention of better supporting the work of anti-doping organisations," read the statement. "The minutes also record that the proposal was not accepted and that this would be confirmed in writing."

UKAD reaction

While WADA is skeptical of British Cycling's motives and practices with regards to the nandrolone study, it is more damning of UKAD. 

The report describes the idea of allowing British Cycling to run the private testing programme as "inconsistent with UKAD’s obligation under the World Anti-Doping Code (the “Code”) to vigorously pursue all potential doping violations."

In addition, the report reveals that UKAD failed to adequately investigate the initial allegations surrounding the nandrolone study, with an internal review in 2018 - dubbed 'Operation Blackout' - neglecting to check British Cycling laptops for the email trail that was eventually uncovered by WADA. 

However, the report did not recommend that disciplinary action be taken against UKAD, due to the individuals involved no longer being employed there, and to an audit performed by WADA this year, which "did not identify any issues of concern" relating to UKAD. 

On Tuesday evening, UKAD welcomed the findings, stating: "The report makes no recommendations for UKAD to follow, and notes that all samples related to their investigation were negative. The report also notes that the employees involved in the 2011 events are no longer employed by UKAD, and praises UKAD’s 'diligent cooperation and transparency' with WADA’s investigation team.

"The report highlights WADA’s audit of all UKAD’s activities, completed earlier this year. In this 2021 audit UKAD is commended as ‘extremely competent’, ‘well-managed’, ‘well-organised’ and ‘high-functioning’.

“WADA’s report focuses on matters from 2011 and on the involvement of one individual, who is no longer employed by UKAD. We acknowledge that these matters would not take place today."

Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.