The head of the UK Anti-Doping Agency has warned drugs cheats that the lockdown won’t stop them from getting caught – despite the almost complete lack of testing during the pandemic.
Nicole Sapstead has revealed that talks were under way on how to ramp up testing again before sport resumes behind closed doors next month – including the possibility of doping control officers having to wear PPE equipment, such as masks and gloves, while taking blood and urine samples from athletes.
In the meantime she insisted that Ukad’s intelligence and investigations team were busier than ever chasing potential leads and they would also be closely monitoring athletes’ performances after lockdown for suspicious behaviour.
“Just because everybody’s in lockdown doesn’t mean anti-doping stops,” Sapstead told the Guardian. “So whilst we’ve publicly acknowledged there has been a significant reduction in our testing programme, our intelligence and investigations team continues to be very busy – and information is continuing to come in to that team.”
Asked what her message was to clean athletes worried that their rivals would be able to take banned performance enhancing drugs with impunity, Sapstead said: “They should have confidence in Ukad and that we have a system to receive and process intelligence. If people are ordering stuff off the internet from overseas, we will be getting that information from the UK border force.
“As testing ramps up we will be looking at intelligence across the board. If we suddenly see some strange appearances or strange performance times, we will investigate.”
Speaking on the day Ukad launched its Clean in Quarantine campaign, with a focus on the role of coaches in anti-doping efforts, Sapstead said that she was speaking to sports, the government and scientific experts to make sure everyone was happy if modified rules for collecting samples had to come into effect.
“The last thing we want to do is turn up to a venue, or to try to gain access to a person and for them to turn around and say: ‘No, I’m not happy with this.’ Everybody has to be on the same page as we ramp up our testing. But as we do ramp up, refusing – if we’re all buying into how this is going to be conducted – is not an option.”