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British MPs want criminal charges for doping suppliers

Damian Collins MP poses for photographs during the Sport Industry Breakfast Club on March 10, 2016 in London

Damian Collins MP poses for photographs during the Sport Industry Breakfast Club on March 10, 2016 in London (Image credit: Getty Images)

As most headlines this morning focused on the stinging criticisms made of British Cycling and Team Sky, the DCMS report into Combating Doping in Sport also called for greater powers for the UK's Anti-Doping organisation (UKAD) amid rumours of further investigations into doping in cycling.

The select committee's report argued for a change in the law, saying that "a change... to criminalise the supply of drugs to sports people could give UKAD the powers to access documents without seeking prior agreement, and the right to seek the support of the law enforcement agencies in their investigations."

It also stated: "UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) clearly faces unpalatable decisions on priorities. It has neither the investigative nor the testing resources to respond to all the demands placed on it, which is likely to result in a responsive rather than a strategic approach to the problem of doping in sport. Its scientific and technical skills are not in doubt; its capacity is."

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That harsh reality reflects poorly on the level of the UK government's funding of anti-doping, a point that the report also acknowledges. "It is important that both WADA and UKAD are adequately funded to deal with the huge problem of doping in sport. These important anti-doping bodies cannot fulfil their mandate with insufficient funding."

It continues: "We are attracted by the idea of sports contributing a fixed percentage of their income – from sponsorship or overall – to give the anti-doping bodies some security in planning their programmes and expanding their resources."

To those who have come forward with information but then felt under-supported by anti-doping bodies, including UKAD, this may sound encouraging. Intelligence about possible ethical malpractice by some employees of both British Cycling and Team Sky during their time with the Linda McCartney team, was passed onto UKAD, as long ago as 2012. The information led to an investigation being opened by UKAD in 2012. However, when Cyclingnews contacted several key witnesses in 2016, all confirmed that they had never been contacted by the UK's anti-doping body.

While the statute of limitations may have impacted on the pursuit of allegations that were well over a decade old at the time of the investigation, it is worth noting that some of those individuals were working for either British Cycling or Team Sky during the timescale of the DCMS select committee's investigation. Were these witnesses not contacted by UKAD because too much time had elapsed or because of a lack of funding and resource?

However, when asked about the McCartney team investigation in June 2016, a UKAD spokeperson said: "UKAD never considers an investigation to be closed as there is always a possibility that new information or intelligence may come to light."

Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday reported that further investigations into doping in cycling may be considered.

"The DCMS report will probably not be the end of Parliament’s work into doping in cycling," wrote Nick Harris. "The committee gathered information about senior personnel who doped as cyclists and then allegedly lied about that, including to Parliament. Sources say a separate study into that alleged cheating, cover-ups and an ongoing culture of omerta in British cycling, is on the cards."

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