Britain 'falling behind' in the drugs fight

The Uzbekistan official detained at Sydney airport for allegedly carrying vials of Human Growth Hormone last week would be allowed to enter the UK without any hindrance under current legislation.

The Uzbekistan official detained at Sydney airport for allegedly carrying vials of Human Growth Hormone last week would be allowed to enter the UK without any hindrance under current legislation.

Provided the carrier claims they are for his own use, the drugs would not fall under the provision of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which, according to one doping official in Britain, is being exposed as inadequate by the success of the Draconian anti-drug laws in Australia. If found guilty of importing a banned substance, the Uzbeki official could face a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

With the Commonwealth Games in Manchester due to be the next anti-doping battleground in 2002, authorities in Britain will be propelled into the forefront of the fight against drugs in sport. But officials are concerned Britain will be regarded as a "soft" target for the cheats, with police and customs powerless to act under a government unwilling to bring legislation into line with other countries, notably France and Australia.

The decision by the Chinese authorities to leave 27 athletes and 13 officials at home was widely interpreted as a direct response to the rigorous programme of testing set up by the Australian Sports Drug Agency, which includes the first effective test for EPO, a drug widely used by athletes in endurance sports. Senior figures here question whether Britain has shown anything like the same commitment to the anti-drug campaign, and even whether the newly developed test for EPO will be set up here in time for 2002.

"We have to look at ourselves and our laws very closely, if only to demonstrate that our society cares about the way sport is being played," said Michele Verroken, director of the ethics and anti-doping unit of UK Sport, responsible for the testing programme at the Commonwealth Games. "For example, an official could arrive at the Games in Manchester carrying large quantities of steroids and if he simply says, 'Yes, I'm a bodybuilder, yes, they are for my use,' there is nothing we can do about it. In a recent survey, steroids came third in a list of drugs regularly offered in schools; young athletes do not have to look far. It's a time-bomb waiting to go off."

Verroken has been impressed by the evidence of co-ordinated action in Australia between customs officials, police, politicians and sports authorities, and hopes the model might be followed here. Her fear is that Britain is very far from being able to muster similar forces, particularly when the sporting federations themselves cannot agree on a standard range of punishments for drug offences and recent investment on research into methods of drug detection has been minimal.

"The Australians committed money to fund the EPO study and the French government helped to finance the blood-based EPO test developed by their scientists," said Verroken. "We led the way in the detection of testosterone abuse in the Seventies and in developing independently scrutinised standards for testing, but I'm worried that our reputation is being shot to pieces at international level."

In Australia, British athletes have already been targeted by the doping agency. The European 100m champion Darren Campbell and Katharine Merry, Europe's leading 400m runner, were called for testing late last week. Both athletes are part of the squad coached by Linford Christie, who has been banned for two years following a positive test for nandrolone. Privately, some British officials feel that the team are being singled out for high-profile testing because of the recent controversies over the use of nandrolone.

"This will certainly be the most tested Games; whether it will be cleanest is another matter," Verroken added. "It's a pity we have to take such Draconian steps. It's a bit like putting cameras on every single road in the country to deter speeding. But if the athletes become more confident that the cheats will be caught, then I suppose it's worth it."

The news that Neil Campbell, a squad member of the British Olympic cycling team, has been sent home after being banned for a year by the British Cycling Federation having tested positive for human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), is another blow to Britain's increasingly tarnished reputation, although Campbell yesterday protested his innocence: "I strongly deny that I have ever taken performance-enhancing drugs and I still maintain these anomalies are from a medical condition. Investigations are ongoing."

A two-year study by America's National Commission on Sports and Substance Abuse released last week made equally sobering reading for the IOC and officials. According to the report, coaches and athletes estimated 80 to 90 per cent of competitors in certain unidentified sports use banned performance-enhancing drugs. "We have to remain optimistic," Verroken said, "or there won't be another Games."

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service Engineer - Doors / Windows

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist designer and ma...

Recruitment Genius: Systems Developer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading provider of tu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000+

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn