Fears have been raised that amateur sportspeople in Britain who cheat by using drugs, including amateurs, are getting away with it because anti-doping authorities lack the resources to conduct testing beyond top-level sports.
The Independent has reported the claims by anti-doping experts a month after UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) revealed that a cyclist who once topped British Cycling’s road rankings had been banned for refusing to undergo an anti-doping control.
It’s a case that raises the question of how widespread use of performance enhancing drugs is on the domestic scene.
Jason White, who racked up 16 wins on his way to topping the British Cycling 2011 Elite Road Rankings, was banned for two years after admitting that he refused to be tested after he secured third place in the Richardsons-Trek Road Team Road Race in Thaxted, Essex last September.
Less than a fortnight later, the 42-year-old who owns Benfleet bike shop JD Cycles, won a World Masters Track Championship bronze medal in the points race. With his ban only taking effect from November, he’s allowed to keep that.
As a poster to a thread on Timetriallingforum.co.uk pointed out, White’s ban means that four of the top 13 finishers in the 2010 edition of the Jock Wadley Road Race in Colchester, including the riders who finished first and second, have now been sanctioned for breaking anti-doping rules.
The race, run in March 2010, was won by former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, then with Rapha Condor Sharp, who is currently serving a two-year ban for irregularities in his biological passport.
The runner-up in that race, Dan Staite, tested positive for EPO and an aromatase inhibitor from a sample taken at National B race the Roy Thame Cup the previous day. He had been specifically targeted for testing by UKAD following a tip-off.
Besides White, who finished 11th, the 13th placed finisher – Belgian rider Marcel Six, would also receive a subsequent ban for an anti-doping violation.
In 2012, by which time he was riding alongside White at Metaltek-Scott, Six was banned for 18 months for refusing to undergo an anti-doping control following a round of the Tour Series at Canary Wharf, citing a family emergency which meant he had to go straight home.
Rugby dominates list of those sanctioned …
Some 42 individuals are listed on the UKAD website as currently serving a ban for an anti-doping rule violation, or whose ban has expired within the past 12 months.
Half of those are linked to both rugby codes – 16 union and five league. Those are followed by boxing (five), athletics and weightlifting (four each) and cycling (three).
While Tiernan-Locke, White and Staite are all currently banned, one other British cyclist has been subject to a doping sanction in the past 12 months.
Bruce Croall, who rode on the track for Scotland at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, had finished a six-month ban earlier in the year after testing positive for a banned amphetamine that turned out to have been present in a contaminated energy supplement he took.
… but youngsters are under pressure
The Independent says that young rugby players, including teenagers, many of whom figure on the banned list, are under pressure to build their body mass.
As the Independent points out, most of the names on the list are amateur athletes, but there are also coaches who have been caught encouraging young sportspeople to take performance enhancing drugs.
Those are Welsh boxing coach Philip Tinklin, banned for life for supplying steroids to his teenage daughter Sophie, herself banned for four years, and Clive Peters, rugby union coach to Surrey’s Under 15 to Under 18 teams, who spent £20,000 buying steroids from abroad.
MAMILs on PEDs?
In cycling, stories emerge from time to time of riders participating in sportive or Gran Fondo events on the Continent being caught using drugs.
Paul Dimeo, Senior Lecturer in Sport at the University of Stirling wrote, in an article published last month on The Conversation called Forget Lance Armstrong, the next big cycling doper could be your dad: “There is every reason to fear that the same problem has reached the UK – or will in due course.”
After detailing instances of middle aged amateur riders caught doping in the US, he says: “The conditions that led to it happening in the US are certainly emerging. In parallel with the huge rise in cycling popularity in the US, cycling has risen to become the third-most-popular sport in the UK.”
He says the easy availability of drugs including EPO on the internet, as well as prescription of testosterone supplements to men in their 40s and 50s are among the factors contributing to a rise in drug abuse among amateurs.
A spokesperson for UKAD told the Independent: “Steroid abuse is a concern for UKAD and we are seeing a worrying increase in its use by young people.
“Our focus in addressing such use must be where it impacts on competitive sport.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.