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Doctor reportedly helped British Tour de France cyclists dope

Calls for UK Anti-doping chief to resign over failure to act on earlier allegations

A London doctor at the centre of a Sunday Times investigation [£] into doping among athletes in the UK has reportedly claimed that his clients include British cyclists who have competed in the Tour de France.

The newspaper says that it sent an aspiring Olympic track and field athlete to the London clinic where Dr Mark Bonar, an anti-ageing specialist, practises. It alleges that he offered the young sportsman EPO.

During their conversation, which was secretly filmed, Dr Bonar is claimed to have said that he had worked with around 150 athletes from a range of sports, which besides cycling include football, boxing, tennis and cricket.

As well as EPO, he is alleged to have prescribed other banned substances including human growth hormone and anabolic steroids.

The Sunday Times says it was alerted to the doctor by a competitor in an unspecified sport who was given a doping ban and sought to have the length of it reduced by presenting UK Anti-doping (Ukad) with what he claimed was evidence that Dr Bonar had prescribed him performance enhancing drugs.

Ukad reportedly decided the evidence was of “little or no value” and added that there were “no grounds for action to be taken against Dr Bonar,” but did not believe there were sufficient grounds to pass on concerns to the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors and whose rules prohibit them from prescribing performance enhancing drugs.

In response to the newspaper’s allegations, Secretary of State for Culture John Whittingdale has ordered an inquiry into Ukad, which says it is “deeply concerned and shocked,” and there have also been calls for the agency’s director, Nicole Sapstead, to resign.

But in a statement published on Ukad’s website last night, she said: “Once again, the media has shown how valuable they are to protecting clean sport and in the fight against doping.

“Investigative journalism has proven that it can uncover and unearth information which authorities like Ukad do not have the jurisdiction to pursue – without this invaluable resource some wrongdoers would not be uncovered and held to public account.

“I therefore applaud the team at the Sunday Times for their relentless pursuit of wrongdoing – it is vital in order to protect clean sport and clean athletes.”

She said that the agency’s own investigation of the athlete’s allegations “found that there was nothing to indicate that Dr Bonar was governed by a sport and Ukad had no other intelligence to corroborate the sportsman’s allegations.

“As a result, Ukad recommended to the sportsperson that more information was needed and as Dr Bonar fell outside of Ukad’s jurisdiction, that information could be passed, if appropriate, to the General Medical Council, which does have the powers to investigate possible medical malpractice and pursue if necessary.”

Tony Minichello, the coach of the Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, commented: “This case shows that British sport has a bigger doping problem than any of us imagined.”

He joined one-time Sports Minister and former British Olympic Committee chair Lord Moynihan in calling for Ms Sapstead’s resignation, saying: “Her clear error of judgment in failing to ensure Ukad properly investigated Bonar makes her position untenable because she has failed in her fundamental duty to protect clean athletes.”

During the videotaped meeting, it is claimed that Dr Bonar told the athlete who visited him as part of The Sunday Times investigation: Some of these treatments I use are banned on a professional circuit. So, you have to be mindful of that. Having said that – I have worked with lots of professional athletes who do use these treatments.”

In subsequent meetings with undercover reporters, it is alleged that he said: “I don’t really advertise…  I don’t want that media scrutiny that kind of [thing], you know, coming down on you.”

The newspaper said that while the doctor did name individual athletes from a range of sports, it “has decided not to publicise them until Bonar’s claims have been further investigated.

“Those contacted by The Sunday Times either denied being treated by him or declined to comment.”

It added that Dr Bonar has refuted its claims that he has helped athletes cheat.

 “The fact that some of my patients happen to be professional athletes is irrelevant,” he said.

“If they have proven deficiencies on blood work and are symptomatic, I will treat them.

“They are well fully aware of the risks of using these medicines in professional sport and it is their responsibility to comply with anti-doping regulations,” he added.

Since the start of the current decade, 16 British cyclists have raced in the Tour de France, including overall winners Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Last year’s Cycling Independent Reform Commission report into doping in cycling said that while there was no evidence of coordinated doping at team level nowadays as once happened at squads such as US Postal and Rabobank, there remained concerns that some individual riders were seeking help to cheat from medical professionals not associated with their own teams.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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WolfieSmith | 7 years ago
1 like

Radio 4 mentioned the ST article this morning and Gary Richardson gave it 15 minutes on 5 Live yesterday but it isn't on the BBC News site and will need  more than a single 'rogue' doctor.

 It's ridiculous to compare the money invested in pro cycling with all it's doping problems with the huge amount of money in pro football which seems to have no substantial doping problems.  Money talks. Or in this case it doesn't. 

Hopefully the the snow ball will roll on..


HalfWheeler | 7 years ago

Cycling still has a problem with doping, I'm not naive, but when I read the article and seen the video of this guy my initial reaction was: bullshit artist.



Rapha Nadal | 7 years ago

Sunday Times in reporting the bloody obvious shocker.

Stumps | 7 years ago

No names, thats a shame.


Didn't think they would, its another Dr who has access to all the banned drugs trying to sound important and in the meantime coining in some cash.

If they came up with names of athletes, cyclists, footallers etc etc then i would give it a bit credence but until that happens then its a non event for me.

robthehungrymonkey | 7 years ago
1 like

I'm not suggesting that there is nothing in this... But, is it not dangerous to potentially start lynching athletes based on a random person "selling" their services? How many people in the world embelish their CV's, expeireince or said "i've worked with x" to get work.  He could be name-dropping people he's never met. 

Just saying, there needs to be at least some evidence. Careers could be ruined by this kind of association. 

Paul J | 7 years ago

If they couldn't do anything directly about the doctor, they _could_ have banned athletes seeing him and they could have passed the case to the GMC (practisiing without licence).

Whether the issue is that the UKAD doesn't get enough funding, or whether it's too constrained by some laws, and/or something else, it's not pretty clear the UKAD is not fit for its stated purpose. It does very little testing. It has often seemed to be more on the side of dopers than clean athletes. It seems - for whatever reason - to be more a PR exercise to give legitimacy to British sport than a serious anti-doping organisation.

There needs to be root and branch reform of anti-doping activities, both in the UK and across the world. And there may well mean the current UKAD oversight and executive functionaries need a good shake-up and fresh blood.

Doper | 7 years ago
1 like


patto583 | 7 years ago
1 like

S they are calling for the retirement of the head of UKAD because she didn't have the authority to do anything about it? Or because she didn't have the budget to do what the Times did (or couldn't do it due to entrapment laws etc)? Or simply because they feel the need to find a scapegoat? UKAD deemed that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with their limited authority, but pointed the person making the claim in the direction of the GMC, who did have the authority to do something about it. The claimant then either got told the GMC could do nothing about it either, or decided that going to the Times would be more lucrative and took the story to them instead. Perhaps UKAD should have passed the information on to the GMC rather than advising the claimant to do it, but that's a pretty minor procedural flaw. 

willythepimp | 7 years ago
1 like

Finally! Now when I tell the football playing fanboys in the crewroom that half the premiership is played by dopers I'll have an article to show em. If there is money- there is the motivation. Especially in a sport where the tv revenues are equal to the uk defence budget. 

How many pairs of boots do you think a bald at 22 because you're on the gas England striker sells?

zanf | 7 years ago



Apparently, John Whittingdale, hte culture secretary, has demanded that an inquiry be set up to spank out the issue.

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