On Thursday, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) Chair David Kenworthy addressed sports professionals on the importance of integrity and athlete welfare in anti-doping, at the inaugural Sport Resolutions Conference.
Below is an excerpt of the speech he gave as part of the opening session.
“Strychnine, brandy and egg whites. The supplement of choice for the eventual winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon in St Louis, Thomas Hicks. Or at least the choice of his team who also declined to give him water because an experiment was being conducted to find out the effects of lack of water on the human body in events such as the marathon. Hicks lived until the age of 84.
But although the substances might seem bizarre today, we know that throughout sporting history athletes have sought help to improve performance. Help has ranged from chemicals to mechanical means. The results have been varied ranging from no effect through to death. Tommy Simpson died on 13July 1967 climbing Mt Ventoux in the Tour de France. The post mortem found traces of amphetamines in his body and amphetamines were found in his hotel and in his cycling jersey pockets. This death prompted the UCI to ban performance enhancing drugs. In the 1976 Olympics the fencer Boris Onischenko wired his foil so that using a hidden switch he could score at will.
What do we know about doping in sport? Not a great deal about the numbers involved because, unsurprisingly, athletes don’t tell us when they’re doping. There have been guesses which range from 2% to 25% of athletes. We do know the figures for testing and in 2013 out of 207,000 samples worldwide, 1.31% of the total tests carried out were positive.
Last financial year, UKAD carried out over 7000 tests and 20 athletes were charged with anti-doping rule violations. So what does that tell us about testing?
It’s not very productive if we believe that between 2% and 25% of athletes are doping. It’s also expensive and the major drawback with testing is that it only catches cheating athletes. It only tackles 3 of the 10 anti-doping violations. What about the trainers, coaches and parents? How do we deal with them?
And before anyone tries to tell me that doping in sport is all the fault of the athletes let me say I don’t believe it.
Chika Amalaha was a 16 year old Nigerian girl competing in the Commonwealth Games. She gave a positive test and was banned. A 16 year old doesn’t just decide to dope. Someone encouraged her.
So we know we have a problem but why do we need to do anything about it? Why don’t we just take the easy way out and let athletes dope to their hearts content? Do you want a sporting competition or a doping competition? You can’t have both.
Sport is about rules. Both spectators and athletes demand fair competition. It seems to be wired into us that modern society wants evenly matched contests. Watching sport can be very expensive. Think how much an FA Premiership ticket costs. If you were a rugby fan you wouldn’t have paid a lot of money to see my old team, Old Tiffinians play a team like Harlequins. There wouldn’t be much competition because the teams would have been miles apart in skill level and experience. (We did have cunning though. I was reminded by a fellow Old Tiffinian front row forward that we used to follow the referee because he knew where the next scrum was going to be!)
So apart from matching like against like, we have other rules. A 100 metre race is run over 100 metres. The athletes don’t just pick their start point somewhere within the 100 metre course.
The Paralympic movement goes to great lengths to ensure that athletes compete against other athletes with similar impairments.
It’s no different restricting what goes into an athlete’s body. The rules, in this case the World Anti-Doping Code, prohibit the use of substances that would give an unfair advantage.
But it goes beyond just rules. There are ethical considerations. We need to protect the sport and therefore the clean athlete who abides by the rules.
We need to protect the health of our athletes and we need to ensure that modern athletes are the best role models they can be. Young people aspire to perform like their sporting heroes.
Most people are happy to put in the hard yards to attain sporting excellence. But some are tempted to take a short cut. Taking supplements or something like a supplement is almost seen to be obligatory. When the ‘water boy’ comes on in an international rugby match, they no longer just carry water. The bottles usually have some manufacturer’s label and product labeling of all kinds is never far away.
Supplements are the norm. The problem for athletes subject to testing is that they can’t be certain that their supplement isn’t contaminated. They can easily become the inadvertent dopers.
But supplement use isn’t confined to athletes. They are a quick way to a better body. And it is a very short step from supplements bought from a supermarket shelf to steroids or other drugs to enhance image. All are freely available online.
I talked recently to an endocrinologist about steroid abuse and he told me that he was horrified at the number of young men he saw in his surgery with shrunken testicles. He tells them that if they stop the steroids their bodies will heal themselves. But they can’t give up.
Go onto the Internet and see what you can buy if you search for steroids. There’s a catch though. If you buy online have you really any idea what you’re buying? The majority of supposed steroids are being produced in China. Most in unsanitary conditions with no quality control and very little science.
It reminds me of the drug users I came across when I was a Police Sergeant in the West End. They would inject themselves with what they thought was clean heroin but the heroin had been cut with talcum powder or brick dust or any other rubbish to bulk it up and increase the dealer’s profit.
Arfon Kendrick a rugby player bought Jintropin, a steroid, online. The delivery was intercepted by Border Force and Kendrick was charged with a violation. When tested, the substance he bought contained nothing illegal. He still committed an anti-doping rule violation because he attempted to buy a banned substance.
Sport is dependent on money to keep producing spectacular displays by, in some case, fabulously wealthy athletes. If I am right that we look for an even contest, then cynicism rapidly sets in if we can’t believe what we’re seeing.
Think how you feel when any world famous athlete is banned for doping. Household names over the years have joined sport’s ‘wall of shame’. Ben Johnston, Tim Montgomery, Tyson Gay, Lance Armstrong. The list goes on. There’s disbelief and then you wonder how long they have been doping, how long have they cheated you, the spectator. Sponsors take a similar view and withdraw.
What Can We Do About It?
Education, education, education. I sound a bit like Tony Blair.
Over the last 10 years we have built up one of the most successful anti-doping education brands in the world – 100% me. We have trained thousands of athletes as well as trainers to pass on the message. 100% me applies to all sports.
Every athlete attending a major Games goes through the 100% me programme as a key part of their preparation. At least through constant training and reminders we can prevent the catastrophe of the ‘dopy doper’ who didn’t read the label or check the online database before taking medication.
Unfortunately there will always be those who are determined to cheat and who will not be dissuaded by education.
Earlier on I pointed out the inadequacy of relying on testing alone to tackle doping. For too long, Anti-Doping Organisations have been judged on the number of tests they carry out in a year. Budgets have been set purely based on projected test numbers; careers have been carved out on the ability to test. But the figures show that testing is a very blunt instrument. Don’t get me wrong. Testing will always be a part of our armoury but it shouldn’t be the only weapon. There will always be a need for unannounced testing both in and out of competition. But I think we should move away from predictable testing.
At the moment, if an athlete wins a podium place, he or she will almost certainly be tested. Why?
Before every major event such as the Olympics, all our competitors will be tested at least once in the run up to the Games. Why?
Why do we spend scarce resources on such predictable testing? The UK invests over £1.5 billion each year in sport. UKAD’s budget is about £7 million and traditionally a large slice of that would have been spent on testing. However, things are rapidly changing.
When UKAD was set up in 2009 we decided at the outset to invest in an intelligence unit. The unit employs seven staff as researchers, analysts and investigators. Prior to the 2012 Games, legislation was passed allowing us to exchange information with law enforcement bodies across the UK. We now have close links with the police, Border Force, HMRC and medical regulators. In 2012, for the first time, a national anti-doping organisation, UKAD, was embedded in the IOC Tasking Group to provide intelligence during the games. This is likely to be the model for future Olympic Games.
As many of you will know, the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code, for the first time, mandates anti-doping organisations to use intelligence and investigations. UKAD is ahead of the game.
Last year 38% of our tests were targeted. That percentage rises every year. We target on the basis of intelligence. 53% of our anti-doping rule violations are as a result of intelligence and 48% are non-analytical. We didn’t use tests. We used intelligence and investigation. We need to instil a fear of getting caught because the dopers don’t know what we know.
A co-ordinated response is needed from all sections of sport. UKAD can’t solve this alone.”
About David Kenworthy
David was appointed as Chair of UKAD in July 2009. David is a former Chief Constable for North Yorkshire and served 35 years in law enforcement. David was a member of the National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) Project Board that helped shape plans and establish UKAD. In March 2013, David was elected as Chair of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO), a body representing NADOs from around the world.