United Kingdom

UK drugs busters were told two years ago about British Cycling's private drug testing of riders

A whistleblower wrote to UK Anti-Doping two years ago raising concerns about British Cycling's private drug testing of riders.

Sportsmail understands a letter was sent to UKAD in 2019 questioning why the governing body was allowed to conduct their own probe into a potential doper before London 2012.

The Mail on Sunday revealed a 2010 urine sample of a British team member was found to contain an unusual amount of banned steroid nandrolone.

Dr Richard Freeman was one of the men involved in events uncovered by the Mail on Sunday

UKAD are now under investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency for seemingly allowing British Cycling to carry out their own follow-up testing rather than overseeing it themselves.

But this is not the first time UKAD have been questioned about the episode, with the whistleblower urging the current administration to look into the historic chain of events.

At the time UKAD received the letter in 2019, any potential doping offence was inside the 10-year statute of limitations for sanctions. That has now passed, so a rider could not be punished if they were found to have doped.

UKAD's chief executive Nicole Sapstead was in her position when the 2019 letter was sent out

UKAD's chief executive Nicole Sapstead was in her position when the 2019 letter was sent, having been appointed in 2015.

She replaced Andy Parkinson, who was in charge at the time of the 2010 nandrolone sample. Sapstead was then the director of operations.

It is not known if UKAD responded to the letter or looked into the whistleblower's claims in 2019.

A UKAD spokesperson said last night: 'We receive a significant number of intelligence reports each year. All information which is passed to UKAD is taken seriously and handled with the highest levels of confidentiality and discretion. To protect the confidentiality of the investigation process it is not always possible to respond or provide updates on lines of investigation which follow an information report.

'We have a rigorous process for receiving and handling any intelligence which comes to us.'

The management team at BC involved in the testing at the time were performance director Dave Brailsford (L) performance manager Shane Sutton (C) and psychologist Steve Peters (R)

The revelations leave a cloud of suspicion over the performances of British Cycling stars at London 2012, where they won 12 medals - including eight golds.

This month, Dr Richard Freeman, the former British Cycling and Team Sky chief medic, was found guilty of ordering banned testosterone in 2011 'knowing or believing' it was to dope an unnamed rider. He has since been struck off the medical register.

Freeman was also one of the men involved in the events of 2011 which were uncovered by the Mail on Sunday and have now sparked a WADA probe.

The controversial episode began when a British squad member's urine sample was found to have traces of nandrolone following an out-of-competition test at the end of 2010. Performance-enhancing steroid nandrolone is a 'threshold substance', where the amount found in a sample needs to be above certain levels to trigger by anti-doping action.

Sources say UKAD's then head of legal, Graham Arthur, tipped off British Cycling's senior management about the test showing one of their riders' samples contained a low level of the steroid.

Freeman (second left) was found guilty of ordering banned testosterone in 2011 'knowing or believing' it was to dope an unnamed rider and struck off

Sportsmail is not naming the rider.

Nandrolone can occur in the body naturally, from contaminated supplements, or by doping.

The national governing body responded by testing a group of riders' urine privately at HFL Sport Science in Cambridgeshire - a non-WADA laboratory - to rule out any innocent explanations.

No findings were made public and UKAD have 'no record' of the results. It is understood the samples came back clean and showed no indication of naturally occurring levels of nandrolone.

WADA are now looking into the matter as their code appears to compel UKAD - rather than a sport's governing body - to carry out such doping investigations.

A WADA spokesperson said: 'We have asked our independent intelligence and investigations department to look into this matter and to contact UKAD to seek further information.

The letter sent to UKAD questioned why British Cycling was allowed to conduct their own probe into a potential doper before London 2012 (pictured)

'Any allegation that a national governing body may be testing their athletes in private, in a non-accredited lab, for the purposes of screening for a prohibited substance should be investigated thoroughly.'

A UKAD spokesperson said: 'We are working with WADA to investigate claims relating to private testing carried out by British Cycling in 2011. UKAD is examining archives to confirm decisions that were taken in 2011 followed due process set by WADA.'

The UKAD statement added: 'The guidance is that trace findings may be used to help to decide who gets tested and when in the future, but does not automatically lead to an investigation.'

A British Cycling spokesman said: 'We are unable to give full comment on this story at this stage as the events took place over 10 years ago and none of the senior management team involved have worked for British Cycling for some time.

'We are reviewing such archived records that exist from this period and, although that is not a straightforward or quick process, we will share the findings with the relevant parties.'

How the controversy unfolded...

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