The Sunday Times said that a private doctor, Mark Bonar, claims to have prescribed banned performance-enhancing drugs to over 150 British athletes, including footballers.
According to the paper, which secretly filmed the doctor, Bonar claims he has treated “a few footballers” who have been or are currently members of the playing staff of Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester City and Birmingham City players.
There is no independent evidence that players from any of these clubs have been treated by Dr Bonar and no evidence that the clubs were aware of any relationship between the doctor and any of its players, or of any alleged drug use. Bonar told the Sunday Times his work did not breach General Medical Council (GMC) rules and that it was athletes’ responsibility to ensure they did not take banned drugs.
“Leicester City Football Club is extremely disappointed that The Sunday Times has published unsubstantiated allegations referring to players from clubs including Leicester City when, on its own admission, it has insufficient evidence to support the claims,” said a statement from the Premier League leaders.
“Leicester City follows robust and comprehensive anti-doping protocols to ensure its full compliance and that of its players with all anti-doping rules and regulations.”
As part of the service he was offering, Dr Bonar is said to have introduced undercover reporters to a former Chelsea fitness coach, although there is no suggestion the coach in question was involved in the alleged treatment, or evidence that the coach referred players that Bonar claims to have treated.
“The claims The Sunday Times put to us are false and entirely without foundation,” said a Chelsea statement. “Chelsea Football Club has never used the services of Dr Bonar and has no knowledge or record of any of our players having been treated by him or using his services.
“We take the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sport extremely seriously and comply fully with all anti-doping rules and regulations. Chelsea FC players are regularly and rigorously tested by the relevant authorities.”
Arsenal were similarly dismissive of the allegations: “Arsenal Football Club is extremely disappointed by the publication of these false claims which are without foundation,” said a statement. “The club takes its responsibilities in this area very seriously and our players are well aware of what is expected. We strictly adhere to all guidelines set by the World Anti-Doping Agency.”
BBC Sport has reported that the Championship side Birmingham City said: “The club have not used the services of Mark Bonar and have no knowledge or record of any of our players, past or present, doing so.”
The Sunday Times reported that Bonar claims in the past six years to have treated more than 150 sports people from the UK and abroad with banned substances such as erythropoietin (EPO), steroids and human growth hormone, and that the performance improvements were “phenomenal”.
The government has ordered an independent inquiry into the UK anti-doping watchdog Ukad over the accusations, with the culture secretary, John Whittingdale, expressing deep concern over suggestions that Ukad had not acted on evidence received two years ago.
“I have asked for an urgent independent investigation into what action was taken when these allegations were first received and what more needs to be done to ensure that British sport remains clean,” Whittingdale told the paper.
This article was written by Guardian sport and Press Association, for theguardian.com on Sunday 3rd April 2016 17.46 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010