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UKAD chief says it is hard to quantify the scale of amateur doping while admitting to concerns over cultural shift

Reluctant to say doping is a growing problem but admits the extent is unknown

While reluctant to say that it is a growing issue, the chief executive of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has said that the full extent of doping in amateur sport is hard to quantify. Nicole Sapstead also suggests that major issues might increasingly be societal, rather than specific to a particular sport.

Sapstead told The Telegraph that she fears doping may be becoming increasingly normalised.

“If this is going on in every sport and in the gyms which you or I frequent then for me this isn’t a sport-specific problem, it is that something is going on out there. Something has shifted in society which is telling them that you can’t achieve your best potential by good nutrition and training.”

In October, David Kenworthy, the chairman of UKAD, warned that the integrity of UK sport was at risk after being told by government to expect a huge budget cut. While the organisation ultimately received a seven per cent increase in funding according to the BBC, this still means only around £7.4m to combat doping, with the bulk of that money set aside for professional sport.

Sapstead told The Telegraph that for this and other reasons, the scale of the amateur doping problem was unknown.

“It’s very hard to quantify because most of what we are reading or hearing is anecdotal. And unless you can start to build that picture with some credible evidence – whether that is from the athletes or the sports themselves, or whether the information is passed to us from law enforcement or the outcome of testing – I would be reluctant to say that it is a ‘growing’ issue.”

Paul Dimeo, senior lecturer in sport at Stirling University, has previously written that the easy availability of drugs 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.

In cycling, national 12-hour time trial champion, Robin Townsend, was recently handed a four-year ban after testing positive for the stimulant modafinil after a race last year. His claim that the positive test resulted from his bottle being spiked while he left his bike unattended during registration for the event was not accepted by UKAD.

In December, British Masters 35-39 champion Andrew Hastings was banned from all sport for four years after testing positive for two different types of anabolic steroids; news which coincided with Junior National 10-mile Time Trial champion Gabriel Evans revealing that he had confessed to UKAD to using EPO earlier in the year.

Sapstead said a long-term view needed to be taken to judge whether or not doping was a growing problem.

“We have seen two positive findings in a very short space of time but that might be a reflection of something that we at UKAD have been doing, or have done, and what we don’t want to do is concertina a problem into two months.

“Maybe we’ll continue to explore and test at different levels and pursue different avenues and maybe there won’t be another positive for 18 months. I don’t know. So before you say amateur sport ‘has an issue’ you have to look at it over a longer period of time. We’ll see if they continue. If they do, of course, a red flag will be raised but at the moment, no, I don’t see it as an indication of a bigger problem.

“But the reality is that with all of those factors, it is entirely possible that sport at an amateur level, and I am talking across all sports, is at risk.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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Ginsterdrz | 8 years ago

I would happily pay a couple of quid at a race to have random drugs tests. Even if there could only be one. The uncertainty would surely be a deterrent. It's not hard to spot the suspects. 

Ghisallo | 8 years ago
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It's pathetic for a middle-aged amateur to dope. I think it would be a waste of resources to aggressively go after these losers though. It would only make racing even more expensive for the majority of racers who do it simply as a pastime. You want to dope to get 3rd place at the local criterium? Knock yourself out, buddy! Big man! Hope you're proud of yourself!

WolfieSmith | 8 years ago
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I have a friend who is a BC commissar. He says the problem of amateur doping in cycling is 'huge'.

The low level of testing combined with plenty of 35 year olds intent on gaining and retaining 1st cat level? Of course it's a problem. It doesn't matter that it's amateur - winning is enough. 

Even in minor senior level TLI races you have to wonder at some of the levels of performance. 

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