Law enforcement has an important role to play in the fight against doping in sport, says Pat Myhill, Head of Intelligence and Investigations at UKAD.
"Doping remains one of the major threats to global sport. It damages sport’s integrity, and potentially the health of athletes who seek to benefit from performance-enhancing drugs. High profile cases have provided an insight into the sophisticated techniques used by some athletes to gain an unfair advantage. In response, those tasked with combating the problem must continue to evolve their strategies and techniques to improve anti-doping programmes.
"The picture some people have of drug testing in sport is of medallists being taken away post event to provide a urine sample. While this still happens, it now only represents one component of the overall process. As former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Dick Pound says, “If you get caught [in-competition] you fail two tests, a drugs test and an IQ test”. This is why athletes looking to administer a prohibited substance will often do so out-of-competition, during training.
"Systems are now in place to help address this shift in behaviour. Elite athletes in a Testing Pool must provide anti-doping authorities with a location for one hour each day, every day, when they can be tested. The reality, though, is that the resources are not available to test each athlete, 365 days a year. Even if they were, this would not be an effective way of operating. What we aim to do at UKAD is focus on quality testing, rather than quantity. This means assessing the risk of a particular sport or athlete, and target testing when and where appropriate. Information received from law enforcement supports this process; however, the benefits do not end there. Intelligence is also used in the pursuit of non-analytical cases.
"In total, there are eight ways in which athletes can breach the anti-doping rules, seven of which are categorised as ‘non-analytical’. This means they are based on evidence other than a positive drugs test, and include trafficking, possession and the use of a banned substance. Such cases often rely on law enforcement and regulatory bodies, who can share information with UKAD, to then establish cases against athletes and even athlete support personnel, such as coaches.
"In 2010, a data-sharing agreement was signed with what was then the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), enabling UKAD to share information with UK police forces and the UK Border Agency. This agreement continues to exist through the National Crime Agency (NCA), where information can be submitted easily through the NCA portal. This relationship allows us to gather information that previously would not have been shared and acted upon; meaning individuals bound by anti-doping rules might have escaped punishment for doping activities. This year, working in partnership with the UK Border Force, a former rugby union player received an eight-year ban from all sport for the possession and trafficking of steroids.
Benefits For Both Sides
"It is important to emphasise that this is a two-way process. Law enforcement agencies can help UKAD by uncovering reliable evidence for use in disciplinary proceedings against athletes and coaches under investigation. Evidence could include details of previous drugs convictions or information from any police investigation with a link to sports or athletes. UKAD, in turn, can support law enforcement efforts by providing information and expertise that assists in understanding and developing the available evidence. For example, UKAD has supplied intelligence on performance-enhancing drug use in the East Midlands area, which resulted in a joint Problem Profile being completed with the East Midlands Police Regional Intelligence Unit. Our knowledge of prohibited substances is also called upon to support law enforcement in certain cases.
"Information received by UKAD from any external source is processed in accordance with the National Intelligence Model. It is cross referenced with existing data and may be subject to further research and analysis before being acted on by UKAD or shared with others with whom we have information-sharing agreements.
"The information UKAD receives from law enforcement is often high in quality and large in scale, however, less-developed intelligence is also important to support our work. Something that might seem insignificant could potentially be the missing piece of a puzzle. For example, the case last month involved UK Border Force sending UKAD a seizure form where the athlete was the recipient. This helped instigate the investigation.
"UKAD also offers a service for members of the public and the sporting community to contribute towards the intelligence process. Report Doping in Sport is a confidential hotline and online form, powered by Crimestoppers, which provides an avenue for anybody to anonymously voice concerns about doping in sport.
"From 2015, the World Anti-Doping Code will require every Anti-Doping Organisation to have the resources to obtain, assess and handle anti-doping intelligence and information from a variety of sources, including law enforcement.
"In this respect, the UK is at the forefront. However, as the value of intelligence becomes more important than ever, UKAD will continue to look at new ways we can develop and enhance our strong partnership with law enforcement partners. Their expertise, resources and knowledge can play a significant role in helping to protect clean sport."
Pat Myhill has a career spanning over 30 years in law enforcement, including working for the Metropolitan Police, National Crime Squad and then Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Pat joined UKAD in 2013 after working on the safety and security plan for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.