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Workin on a mystery, goin wherever it leads

December 8, 2007

Fraud experts to track drug cheats

Paul Kelso
Friday December 7, 2007
The Guardian

Specialist investigators including former police officers, fraud investigators, forensic accountants and medical and IT experts will be recruited to track down drugs cheats as part of reforms aimed at stamping out doping in sport.UK Sport is to hand over authority for anti-doping operations to the new independent National Anti-Doping Agency (Nada) which will liaise with law- enforcement agencies as well as having enhanced investigative powers of its own. The new agency, expected to be in place by 2010 at the latest, will have an increased staff and will need an annual budget of up to £8m, double the £4m spent by UK Sport currently on anti-doping.

The recruitment of investigators, which will see governing bodies lose the power to determine the charges that cheating athletes will face, is a response to the growing threat posed by the organised production and trafficking in performance-enhancing substances.

Recent cases including the Balco scandal, Operation Puerto in Spain – which uncovered systematic doping in cycling – and the discovery of 56 steroid laboratories and the arrests of 120 people by Operation Raw Deal in the United States have emphasised the impact that law-enforcement agencies can have.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) congress in Madrid last month stressed the need to work more closely with such agencies.

UK law enforcement is seen as having a poor record in relation to performance-enhancing drugs, which have a low priority for police and customs.

Supplying steroids is an offence in the UK but there have been, on average, fewer than 10 convictions a year in the past decade, and last week an FBI official criticised British agencies for failing to cooperate with Raw Deal, which involved itself with a large number of other overseas agencies.

With genuine concern that there could be a “British Balco” operating with impunity, the changes are intended to make life harder for the cheats.

“If you apply the logic that applies to the drugs trade generally and look at the international tendrils of Operation Raw Deal, it would suggest that there is a significant chance that the UK is involved in the trade in performance-enhancing drugs,” said John Scott, UK Sport’s director of drug-free sport.

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