This UKAD storm could put Britain next to Russia in the rogue gallery of rule breakers – how these organizations behave is vital to the integrity of the sport
- It is a major problem that the World Anti-Doping Agency is now investigating UKAD
- Drug tests can be used to identify detection thresholds or the effectiveness of masking agents so that athletes can baptize but not get caught
- Unfortunately, recent experience indicates that doping violations are endemic
Top sport may sound like the alphabet soup of organizations – WADA, NADO, UKAD, NGB, and so on – but what these agencies do and how they behave is essential to the integrity of sport.
The fact that the World Anti-Doping Agency is now investigating a NADO (a national anti-doping organization, in this case the UK Anti-Doping Agency) for having previously had a national governing body (British Cycling) conduct their own anti-doping investigations and tests in London 2012 is a major problem.
In fact, it’s a huge deal, and here’s why. British Cycling is the British NGB for Olympic cycling. An NGB plays many roles, but among them it is to develop elite athletes, send them to the Games and hopefully return home with medals. The 2012 Olympics were especially important to the UK because they were home.
The UK could be placed next to Russia in the gallery of the rogue states of national sports organizations looking to break rules to achieve glory
You don’t have to be an expert on sports management to immediately see that a conflict could arise if an NGB were allowed to investigate its own athletes for doping violations. Of course, everything is going well and is good, but it at least looks bad – really bad – for an organization trying to win Olympic medals to control doping among its own athletes. The conflicts are real.
It’s not hard to imagine a hypothetical situation where an NGB would be allowed to test their own athletes and, in the case of a positive test, they could bury the result. Actually, we don’t have to imagine it, because something similar happened in Russia during and before the Olympics in Sochi, as revealed by the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov.
Drug testing can also be used to identify detection thresholds or the effectiveness of masking agents so that athletes can baptize but not get caught. We don’t have to imagine this either, as it is an allegation of the ongoing Alberto Salazar case involving the Nike project.
Unfortunately, recent experience indicates that doping violations are endemic, and it is not just an occasional athlete who goes wrong, but also sports administrators and even governments.
The fact that the World Anti-Doping Agency is investigating anti-doping in the UK is a very big problem
As WADA explains of its investigation into UKAD to allow British Cycling to conduct its own anti-doping investigations: substance must be thoroughly investigated. ‘
This is why, under the umbrella of WADA, independent national organizations are established to oversee anti-doping investigations, separate from the NGBs and the athletes themselves.
We can all have more confidence in the process when there is a NADO at work. This is not only because of their independence, but also because they must have access to WADA accredited laboratories to evaluate evidence. As WADA explains, anti-doping specimens are “only analyzed in WADA accredited laboratories.”
At the 2012 Olympics, only 10 countries won gold medals in cycling – and the UK took eight
At the 2012 London Olympics, 74 countries sent cyclists to participate. Only 10 countries won gold medals, with the UK way ahead with eight. The next highest was just one gold, achieved by nine countries.
While the WADA investigation into UKAD and British Cycling is just underway, a finding of attempts to circumvent anti-doping protocols would once again spook a sport all too familiar with major doping controversies.
Most importantly, it would place the UK next to Russia in the rogue gallery of national sports organizations looking to break rules in the pursuit of national podium glory.
Prof Roger Pielke is the author of The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports. He founded a Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA and is consulted as an expert in sports ethics, including by international sports boards.