Anti-doping experts have voiced their concern that drugs cheats are going undetected in amateur sport because limited resources mean that the authorities’ efforts are concentrated at the elite level.
The huge rise in amateur events in the UK, especially in cycling, has coincided with an increasing number of amateur athletes banned from competition, despite limited testing at lower levels. The former rugby coach for Surrey’s U15s, a woman boxer, and a cyclist are among non-elite athletes recently banned for drugs violations.
The UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) carried out more than 5,000 tests last year. Its figures, just out, show there were 22 cases to answer, as more amateurs failed drugs tests. One cyclist, Jason White, who finished third in a 130km Eastern Road Race League event in September, was banned for two years after refusing to take part in a drugs test after the race.
Paul Dimeo, senior lecturer in sport at Stirling University, warned that amateur drug cheats mimicking the habits of professional cycling competitors such as Lance Armstrong are being tempted by the cheapness and ease of access to drugs over the internet.
“The conditions that led to [amateurs being caught] in the US are certainly emerging [here],” he wrote on the website The Conversation. “In parallel with the huge rise in cycling popularity in the US, cycling has risen to become the third most popular sport in the UK.”
But the list of drug cheats on Ukad’s website show the problem is widespread across many British sports at amateur level.
In August, the boxing coach Philip Tinklin, from Risca, South Wales, became the first person to be banned for life by the agency for supplying steroids to his daughter, Sophie, an amateur boxer who received a four-year ban. Tinklin was charged with three anti-doping rule violations after a Gwent Police investigation.
Lower-level rugby players dominate the list, with a growing number of teenagers being caught. Rising star Frankie Foster, 18, tested positive recently for clomiphene, a hormone used in fertility treatments, while playing for the University of Gloucestershire. He was banned until 2016.
Young players say they are coming under increasing pressure to add weight and bulk up. Sam Chalmers, 20, was banned for two years after failing a drugs test while training with Scotland U20s.
The most controversial sports autobiographies
The most controversial sports autobiographies
1/10 Tyler Hamilton – The Secret Race
Hamilton, one of Lance Armstrong’s key lieutenants during his Tour de France victories, made headlines around the world when ‘The Secret Race’ finally exposed the doping culture that defined Armstrong’s success and cycling in general. The book helped to turn public perception against his former team leader for good, and contained the most graphic and detailed depictions of sustained drug-taking in sport ever published. Key Quotes: ‘It took the drug-testing authorities several years and millions of dollars to develop a test to detect EPO in urine and blood. It took Ferrari about five minutes to figure out how to evade it.’ ‘I didn't say anything. Lance was on a roll now. ‘I'm going to make your life a living ... ******* ... hell.’’
2/10 Len Shackleton – Clown Prince of Soccer
The original controversial football autobiography was penned by Sunderland legend Len Shackleton in 1956. The book is littered with criticism targeted at the FA and former clubs but became infamous for a chapter titled ‘The average director’s knowledge of football’. The page beneath was left blank. Key Quote: 'Chapter 9 – The average director’s knowledge of football…'
3/10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic – I am Zlatan
The Swedish superstar has never struggled for self-confidence, and Zlatan channelled his absolute self-assurance to produce one of the most brilliant, bonkers footballer’s autobiographies of all time. ‘I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ intersperses sections sticking the boot into Pep Guardiola with gleeful anecdotes of his utterly bizarre extra-curricular exploits. Key Quotes: ‘Whenever life’s at a standstill I need some action. I always drive like a maniac. I’ve done 325 kilometres an hour in my Porsche Turbo and left the cops eating my dust.’ ‘One time I got dressed in all black, Rambo-style, and took a massive pair of bolt-cutters and nicked a military bike.’
4/10 Herschelle Gibbs – To the Point
The South African batsman’s career was littered with incidents of drug-taking, womanising and racism, so his book was always going to arouse controversy. ‘To the Point’ vividly depicted his drink and drug abuse and orgies involving Gibbs and his international team-mates, as well as some customary mud-slinging over cliques of senior players (sound familiar, KP?). Key Quote: (subtly depicting a night on a tour of Australia in 1997/98) ‘It was one fat party. From mid-evening to the next afternoon. I enjoyed the company of … let’s say, more than one woman.’
5/10 Sean Long – Longy: Booze, Brawls, Sex and Scandal
Long, a mainstay of the all-conquering St Helens team of the late 90s and early 2000s, had his career tainted by a three-month ban for betting on his team to lose to Bradford Bulls in 2004. His book lived up to its straightforward title: beyond lifting the lid on a betting culture that pervaded rugby league, the book is awash with anecdotes of extraordinary drinking and seedy sexual encounters. Key Quote: ‘Me and Glees [Martin Gleeson] got our heads together and decided to bet on Bradford to win.’
6/10 Andre Agassi – Open
Agassi’s revealing memoir lifted the lid on his uncompromising upbringing and a career spent riddled with insecurities. Perhaps most notoriously, ‘Open’ included the revelation that Agassi used crystal meth throughout 1997 when his career was in a lull, leading to the star lying to avoid a drugs ban. Key Quotes: ‘I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.’ ‘As if they're coming out of someone else's mouth, I hear these words: You know what? **** it. Yeah. Let's get high.’
AFP PHOTO/Glyn Kirk
7/10 Paolo Di Canio – Paolo Di Canio: The Autobiography
Di Canio has always been, to put it mildly, a tad eccentric. Fortunately, he refused to hold back in his book, written in 2000, which contains everything from barmy tales of stabbing his brother in the back (literally, with a fork) to an impassioned defence of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, which later caused him trouble as manager of Swindon and Sunderland. Key Quote: ‘I am fascinated by Mussolini. I think he was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose.’
8/10 Paul McGrath – Back from the Brink
McGrath’s book, which unflinchingly confronts his difficult childhood, alcoholism and multiple suicide attempts, is one of the most troubling sporting autobiographies ever written. The tales of McGrath’s epic binges – he once woke up in a caravan 15 miles from the team hotel, and would frequently play when drunk – are made all the more shocking by his total lack of glorification. Key Quote: ‘I vividly remember the Stanley knife and the blood pouring on to the floor. Come to think of it, I remember the au pair's screams too.’
9/10 Paul Kimmage – Rough Ride
A journeyman pro cyclist, Kimmage won the William Hill Sports Book award in 1990 for going against the sport’s ‘omerta’ and revealing for the first time the extent of drug-taking in the peloton. The book ostracized the Irishman from former friends and teammates but forced cycling to finally confront itself –Kimmage would later become one of Lance Armstrong’s fiercest critics. Key Quote: 'It was doping, no mistake about it, but it was only pigeon **** compared to what some of the others were doing. It bothered me, but this was my last Tour and I didn’t want to go out of it after two days.’
10/10 Roy Keane – Keane: The Autobiography
Keane has previous on the controversial autobiography front, after his first book landed him in front of an FA tribunal for bringing the sport into disrepute. Mick McCarthy was one of many targeted in Keane’s relentlessly angry tome, but ultimately it was his expletive-ridden admission of deliberate retribution on Alf Inge Haalaand that landed the Irishman in hot water. Key Quote: (On Alf Inge Haaland) ‘I'd waited long enough. I ******* hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you ****. And don't ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.’
Chalmers, the son of former Scotland and British Lions No 10 Craig Chalmers, took a prohibited substance after coaches told him to put on weight. He paid £27 online for a pack of Pro-SD; the manufacturer made no secret of the fact that it is an anabolic steroid.
Perhaps the most infamous drugs cheat of recent times is Clive Peters – handed an eight-year ban. He coached Surrey’s U15 to U18 rugby union sides. Legal papers from last year’s hearing show he spent almost £20,000 buying steroids from China, the US and Greece.
Dr Neil Chester, a sports scientist specialist at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “There’s a lot of talk in the athletics press about doing more testing in road races, like fun runs, because generally you only test in IAAF events, which account for very few in the athletic calendar. There does appear to be an issue, but it’s difficult to quantify.
“If athletes don’t expect to be tested, then it’s likely that they may be taking things for performance-enhancing purposes.”
A Ukad spokeswoman said: “Steroid abuse is a concern for Ukad and we are seeing a worrying increase in its use by young people.
“Our focus in addressing such use must be where it impacts on competitive sport.”Reuse content