UK Sport may form new testing agency

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UK Sport yesterday announced an independent review of its anti-doping procedures which could lead to the formation of a separate agency to carry out drug-testing.

The news will please sporting bodies and individuals who have called for such a measure to avoid a potential conflict of interest, given that UK Sport also administers Lottery funding.

The Jockey Club has already given the responsibility for tests to another body, and there has been criticism from the Professional Footballers' Association of UK Sport over the Rio Ferdinand affair.

Dave Moorcroft, the chief executive of UK Athletics, has lobbied for the creation of an independent drug-testing agency for several years, although his main aim has been to see another body created to deal with the disciplinary consequences of drug abuse.

That is currently the responsibility of governing bodies and, as UK Athletics knows to its cost, such procedures can entail costly lawsuits on behalf of defendants.

The review was initiated despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of Michele Verroken, UK Sport's director of drug-free sport.

Verroken has been on leave since before Christmas following a shake-up in UK Sport which saw the departure of the chief executive, Richard Callicott, and a suggestion that Verroken should also resign.

Under the direction of the new chairman, Sue Campbell, who has been brought in to adopt reforms, the organisation has appointed the consultancy firm PMP to carry out the review.

The first task for PMP, who will be supported by advisers from Loughborough University and Anglia Polytechnic University, will be to speak to all the governing bodies for their views and then report to Campbell in March, with their recommendations subsequently to be passed on to the Government.

"We recognise that there are strong opinions on both sides of the fence," Campbell said. "We go into the review with a completely open mind and look forward to receiving the recommendations from PMP in March.

"After discussing these with the sports cabinet we would then aim to implement agreed changes from the review by April 2005.

"In the meantime we will continue to work hard on the delivery of the UK's anti-doping programme and the implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code," Campbell added.