Cookson has 'no recollection' of UKAD-British Cycling nandrolone case

Brian Cookson
Former British Cycling head Brian Cookson (Image credit: Getty Images)

Brian Cookson, the former head of British Cycling, has told Cyclingnews that he has ‘no recollection’ of an incident that has led to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) launching an investigation into UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) after it was reported that the national anti-doping body allowed British Cycling to investigate a rider test that returned traces of nandrolone in 2010.

The level of nandrolone was below the limit required to trigger a positive test but it did lead to UKAD passing on the information to British Cycling at the time.

WADA are investigating why UKAD allowed British Cycling to launch an internal testing programme to determine the reason for the banned substance showing up in the track rider’s system, and why UKAD never followed up on the case.

UKAD have confirmed that they have no paperwork or results from British Cycling’s own investigation. When contacted by Cyclingnews, WADA confirmed that they were looking into the matter.

"Some of the information provided is of significant concern to WADA," said the spokesperson.

"We have asked our independent Intelligence and Investigations Department to look into this matter and to contact UKAD to seek further information.”

Cookson served as the head of British Cycling between the years of 1997 and 2013. In that period, Great Britain became the dominant force in track racing, winning 19 Olympic gold medals. He later went on to become the president of the UCI and campaigned on a mandate of improving cycling’s image in the wake of the Lance Armstrong and US Postal saga.

The news of the nandrolone case and the subsequent involvement of British Cycling and WADA was broken by the Mail on Sunday with the publication’s main story highlighting that the then management team at British Cycling of Dave Brailsford, Shane Sutton, Steve Peters and Richard Freeman, were central to the success generated on the track.

At the point British Cycling launched their internal investigation by using a private lab for a series of screening tests on riders, Cookson was well into his final term as president of the organisation, but he has told Cyclingnews that he has no memory of the nandrolone case or of British Cycling spending funds on a third-party testing lab. Now retired from sporting governance, Cookson did confirm that he would work with WADA if approached.

“I have no recollection of this latest matter and will be happy to co-operate with any investigation by WADA, UKAD, or any other appropriate body. Given such investigations are underway, I am making no further comment at this stage.”

Cyclingnews has approached both Brailsford and Sutton for comment but neither have responded.

UKAD have responded to the BBC stating that: "Sometimes amounts of a 'threshold substance' can be reported by the laboratory in a negative sample which are found to be below the threshold where an investigation is required. These are trace amounts and can sometimes occur in the body naturally.

"The guidance from WADA is that these trace findings may be used to help to decide who gets tested and when in the future, but does not automatically lead to an investigation.

"We work within the WADA framework and are always happy to work with them if they ever require any further information from us on any of our activities."

In a statement, UKAD’s CEO Nicole Sapstead, who was the Director of Operations at UKAD, said: “We refute any implication that speaking to an NGB about a sample containing trace amounts of a threshold substance amounts to anything improper.”

UKAD also confirmed that they had no record of the results carried out from the private drug testing.

Last week, Cyclingnews revealed that UKAD had failed to contact several potential witnesses after an allegation of doping was made against Shane Sutton. Sutton strenuously denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, the UCI has confirmed to Cyclingnews that they have already contacted WADA to offer their assistance in the investigation.

“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been made aware of this matter by recent media reports and has already offered its assistance to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The UCI is not in a position to comment further at this stage.”

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.