The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has found that employees of British Cycling and UK Anti-doping (UKAD) were engaged in “potential wrongdoing” over the collection and analysis of samples from elite athletes.
A summary report published today by WADA’s independent Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Department, found that “in February 2011, as part of a study into potential contamination of supplements, British Cycling collected samples from elite riders and screened these samples for the androgen and anabolic steroid, nandrolone.
“Contrary to the rules laid down by the World Anti-Doping Code and the relevant International Standard, the samples were collected by British Cycling staff rather than doping control officers, analysed by a non-WADA-accredited laboratory, and provided by the athletes on the basis that UKAD would never know the results,” WADA said.
The organisation’s probe, codenamed Operation Echo, was launched in March this year, with The Sunday Times reporting then that the allegations concerned a “prominent rider.”
WADA said today that “The names of those involved in the investigation have been withheld from the summary report in order to protect their privacy rights, in accordance with the terms of the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information.”
It said that “Operation Echo also established that at least one UKAD employee was aware of the study and that the samples could be collected and analysed at a non-WADA-accredited laboratory.
“To this day, UKAD has no record of ever receiving the analysis results and emails that would have showed UKAD’s real-time knowledge of key events.”
WADA I&I Director, Gunter Younger, commented: “Operation Echo confirmed potential wrongdoing by individuals in both British Cycling and UKAD at that time.
“Following this investigation, a copy of our report was provided to the WADA Compliance, Rules and Standards Department for its consideration.
“In addition, the summary report was provided to the Union Cycliste Internationale – the governing body under which British Cycling operates – and to the United Kingdom Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport for their attention.
“Operation Echo’ makes no corrective recommendations as those involved in the events of 2011 are no longer employed by UKAD, and UKAD has already put safeguards in place to avoid a repeat occurrence,” he added.
“It is important to acknowledge that WADA I&I received the full co-operation and transparency of British Cycling and UKAD throughout our investigation.”
WADA said that the operation also probed two other allegations, the first being that “UKAD had released individual athletes’ Athlete Biological Passport data to British Cycling in 2016.”
The second is that “UKAD had allowed two athletes, who were advancing a contaminated supplements defence following Adverse Analytical Findings, to privately test the products in question, and that UKAD had accepted the results of the resultant analysis at the subsequent anti-doping hearing. ‘Operation Echo’ found no evidence to uphold these allegations.”
British Cycling has said this evening that the two athletes who are the subject of that last finding by WADA are not cyclists, and are instead from a different sport.
In recent years, the national governing body has found itself embroiled in a succession of allegations regarding possible doping in the early years of the last decade, and in response has carried out a wholesale change of its senior management team.
In March last year – days before news of the WADA probe became public – former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman was struck off the medical register after a tribunal ruled that his fitness to practise medicine had become impaired by his misconduct.
Freeman was found, among other things, to have ordered Testogel testosterone patches in May 2011 “knowing or believing that it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance.”
UKAD subsequently launched its own investigation into the case, but that has been suspended pending an appeal against the decision by Freeman.
An earlier UKAD probe into alleged wrongdoing at British Cycling, regarding the delivery of a Jiffy Bag to Freeman at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné, won by Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins, and suspected by a parliamentary enquiry of having contained a banned substance was shelved in 2017 due to the agency being unable to identify what was in the package.
In a detailed statement in response to the WADA report, and which should be read in conjunction with it, British Cycling said this evening:
We would like to thank the World Anti-Doping Agency for their efforts in reviewing this matter. The study covered by the WADA review took place over a decade ago but it is vital that any concerns regarding the decision-making processes of anti-doping authorities are properly scrutinised whenever they are raised.
We have been very happy to offer WADA our full and wholehearted help and cooperation throughout their review of the 2011 study and we welcome their recognition of the diligence with which we have pursued this responsibility. The WADA review addresses three allegations:
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. 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.
In recent years, British Cycling has made many sector-leading and transformative changes to our own processes, including:
- The appointment of a Chief Medical Officer accountable to the Chief Executive.
- The creation of a Clinical Governance Committee to provide independent oversight of the provision of medical care to riders who compete for Great Britain.
- The achievement of Care Quality Commission status meaning the medical care provided to riders competing for our country is independently assessed as safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality.
- The use of electronic medical note-keeping which means our records are independently assessed by qualified professionals.
These improvements demonstrate the standards to which we hold ourselves and which British Cycling members and fans of our sport rightly expect us to achieve. Notwithstanding that WADA attached no fault to British Cycling, these improvements mean the 2011 events described in the WADA review could not be repeated at British Cycling today and, while there can be no room for complacency, we are proud of the progress we have made towards our ambition of becoming a world-leading governing body.
WADA’s findings relating to a 2016 discussion of anti-doping processes are entirely in line with the statement we made when this matter was raised in April this year.
In February 2016, a former British Cycling employee made a proposal to the federation's anti-doping commission, which included two representatives from UK Anti-Doping, that UKAD share information from athlete biological passport monitoring with the medical team for the Great Britain Cycling Team.
The minutes from the meeting record that this proposal was made with the intention of better supporting the work of anti-doping organisations. The minutes also record that the proposal was not accepted and that this would be confirmed in writing.
This allegation concerns athletes from another sport and is not connected to British Cycling in any way.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.