WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Countdown to 2012: Doped Athletes Can Run but They Can’t Hide
With just over two-and-a-half years to go until the London Olympic Games, the pressure is on for athletes to consistently perform on the world stage in the countdown and to not only ensure selection but to reach the medals podium in the greatest sporting show on earth. The demand to be at ones’ ultimate physical peak come the summer of 2012 is such that for many misguided fools, the temptation to cheat is too intense, and so to combat this powerful, deviant craving; a new, exciting national anti-drug agency has been established, writes Nicola Bamford.
Launched this January, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has announced that top British athletes could be tracked by private detectives and banned from their sport even if they have never failed a doping test; proving it’s no-nonsense crackdown on cheats.
Spearheaded by the former chief constable of North Yorkshire, David Kenworthy, UKAD will carry-out intensive testing across forty sports and encourage athletes to call a hotline if they suspect fellow competitors and coaches of wrong-doing.
Andy Parkinson, the UKAD chief executive said: “With 2012 around the corner, there will be pressure on young athletes not only to win medals but just to get to the start-line. We would be naive to think that no athletes will consider that option [drugs].”
With a full-time, seven-strong investigations team heading the inquiries, UKAD will utilise information from the police, medical authorities, customs officers and competitors. The long-overdue overhaul on doping in British sport will use a total of fifty staff, which will be funded by the taxpayer.
Describing the organisation as an ‘intelligence-led organisation that works with athletes and sports to develop and deliver education and information programmes,’ UKAD will partner the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) amongst others, to fight to clean up sport altogether.
In a first for British anti-doping, UKAD will also pursue traffickers and even hire private detectives at its’ discretion, as the nation seeks to prove it has one of the most rigorous programmes in international sport during the build-up to the 2012 Olympics.
The UK will now follow the lead of countries such as the US and Australia, where athletes have been suspended for 'non-analytical positives’ when sports performers have been found guilty by anti-doping panels after investigations.
Shocking evidence that sport needs more authorities like UKAD is the tale of Sydney 2000 multiple gold-medal-winning sprinter, Marion Jones. Jones successfully passed more than 160 drug tests during her ill-fated athletics career and fortunately, was eventually imprisoned for lying because of evidence discovered by detectives after the infamous BALCO scandal in 2003.
The Australian’s have found that after using the ‘non-analytical positives’ system for three years, 38% of bans have been prompted by such inquiries.
The work of UKAD in its’ inaugural year and in the countdown to 2012 will not only prove beneficial to sustaining clean, fair sport in the United Kingdom and keeping competitors in sound mind of being on an even playing-field, but it will also prove that doping athletes certainly can run but they almost certainly can’t hide for long.
Your writer – Nicola Bamford is a long-distance runner and sports journalist, who specialises in covering athletics and the Olympics. She has plied her trade writing for athletics magazines and the websites of national and international athletics governing bodies.