Turf war over doping in sport condemned as 'disgraceful' by UK Anti-Doping Agency

Nicole Sapstead says political in-fighting over control of WADA could jeopardise the fight against drugs cheats

UKAD

Image: Felipe Dana / AP/Press Association Images

Political attacks against the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by leading figures in the Olympic movement have been condemned as "disgraceful" by the head of the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD).

Nicole Sapstead told Sky News political in-fighting over control of WADA could jeopardise the fight against drugs cheats.

She also said the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to allow Russian athletes to compete at the Rio Games despite clear evidence of state-sponsored doping undermined WADA and "destroyed its credibility".

The WADA foundation board meets in Glasgow today to discuss reforms intended to restore faith in the wake of the Russian doping scandal.

But the build-up has been dominated by tension between WADA and the IOC. 

At a meeting of Olympic nations in Doha last week WADA President Sir Craig Reedie came under sustained criticism from officials critical of WADA's recommendation that Russia be banned from the Games.

The issue has opened a rift between those responsible for catching the cheats and sports organisations which have to both promote and police their own events.

IOC president Thomas Bach claimed in Doha that the organisation's decision not to ban all Russian athletes was "not political but in the interests of clean athletes".

Sky News understands that statement, and agitation against WADA by Mr Bach's allies, has angered and appalled a number of national anti-doping agencies, as well as some government representatives who sit on the WADA board.

"The fact we are having a political row about this is pretty disgraceful actually, and I think that it shows there isn't the importance attached to integrity of sport and anti-doping that there should be," Ms Sapstead said.

"I think events of the last 12 months have come to a head in terms of anti-doping and the integrity of sport, and this weekend about making the decisions that need to be made meaningful and making them count.

"I was never comfortable when WADA, saying one thing, having identified state-sponsored doping through independent reports, and taken a view that was then undermined by different action.

"It completely destroyed the credibility and the sole purpose of why WADA is there."

Ms Sapstead also revealed that Russian state authorities are continuing to obstruct and frustrate attempts to test athletes by UKAD officials.

UKAD is carrying out testing because the Russian agency was disbanded, but Sky News revealed in May that officials were being barred from military facilities in "closed cities" where some athletes are based, and were even threatened with deportation. 

Ms Sapstead said: "The situation is status quo, we continue to run a testing programme in Russia... and yes there continue to be the same challenges that WADA reported on in terms of access to close cities and access for doping control officers."

Sports minister Tracey Crouch, who sits on the WADA board as one of five European Union representatives, has called on all parties to work together. Finding common ground may prove difficult, however.

The IOC is proposing a new agency independent of WADA take charge of all drug testing, but there are reservations among anti-doping agencies and national governments which currently provide half of WADA's £24m budget.

They want WADA to be strengthened with more independence from the IOC and the sports they police, and greater power including the right to hand out sanctions.