As if the sporting world was not already in the middle of a doping crisis, British sport has now been thrust into the limelight following the revelation by the Sunday Times of a doctor who may have ‘treated’ some of the country’s top professional athletes.
The doctor in question is London-based Mark Bonar and according to the information released by the investigators, his customers include British tennis players, cyclists and even some Premiership footballers – the first time football has been mentioned in the latest doping allegations.
The information came to light after a Sunday Times reporter posed as an athlete, following a tip-off from an unnamed sporting professional who was recently banned for doping. During the recorded meeting with Mr Bonar, he discussed prescribing growth hormones and EPO to professional sportsmen and women who were “at the top”.
Unsurprisingly, all those unnamed athletes who were later contacted by the newspaper either denied having been treated by Bonar or refused to comment. The doctor at question, meanwhile, argues that he was only offering treatments which were not designed to enhance sports performance.
Although the information offered in the investigation would seem to suggest that doping has been committed, one major problem is that there is currently no evidence to completely backup this claim, only the word of a former customer and the details released in the meeting.
Nonetheless, an investigation has been demanded by the government to look at the practises of the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKADA) to try and understand why incidents of this scale have not already been uncovered.
This British allegation comes just as the Kenyan Anti-Doping Agency misses its deadline to pass information on to the governing body for athletics, the IAAF. There is now an ever-stronger possibility that Kenya could be banned from sending athletes to the Rio Olympics, joining Russia on the blacklist.
Although there is currently no suggestion that Britain could find herself banned from the upcoming Olympics, it again throws into question the integrity of the world’s anti-doping policies, especially with the number of major countries finding their names linked in allegations.
From a British perspective, it is also worrying to see that doping has started to weave itself into team sports, including football. Leicester City and Manchester United are just two of the clubs to immediately deny the use of performance enhancing drugs, although there is certainly a real possibility that some of their players could have discreetly been treated by Bonar.
With an investigation into UKADA likely to take months, it looks as though we will have to wait some time before we can get some answers regarding these latest allegations. However, with the details emerging so close to the Rio Olympics, the decisions made by those at the top will be critical to ensuring no further damage is done to British sport.
Image Credit: Aemsa (https://flickr.com/photos/46849306@N08/)
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