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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 20:47 GMT
Minister backs anti-doping move
By Matt Slater

Drugs in sport
UK Sport currently spends 4m a year on its anti-doping activities
The involvement of British law enforcement agencies in the battle against drugs cheats has been welcomed by Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe.

On Wednesday, UK Sport, which currently runs the testing regime, announced the panel that will oversee the creation of a new, independent anti-doping body.

The 12-strong "project board" includes representatives from government and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

"We need to make sure the cheats have no place to hide," said Sutcliffe.

"As well as people from the world of sport I am pleased we also have representation from our enforcement agencies as we look to tackle the trafficking and supply of prohibited substances.

"The formation of the new National Anti-Doping Organisation (Nado) will be a crucial development in the fight against drugs in sport."

The next developments in the Nado story are expected this spring, after the project board has met twice to add detail to the work already started.

A decade ago governments had little interest in drugs in sport, they left it to sporting bodies - now they are very much out there because they recognise that it is a public health problem
Wada president John Fahey

Among the key decisions that still need to be made are where Nado will be based, who will lead it and from where its increased budget will come.

UK Sport spends about 4m a year on its testing programme but Nado will have extended powers - it will also prosecute failed tests and liaise with other agencies - and its budget is expected to double.

The jobs of chairman and chief executive will be public appointments and, as a new government agency, its headquarters must be outside London, although it is unlikely to go too far as the UK's only World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory is at Kings College London.

The decision to establish a stand-alone agency - along the lines of those operating in Australia and the US - was announced last December after a six-month review into Britain's anti-doping efforts.

Prior to this announcement, UK Sport had vigorously defended its dual role as lead funding body for elite sport and Britain's anti-doping agency.

This position, however, started to look untenable when Britain was a notable absentee in a series of high-profile, US-led international drugs busts that culminated in last September's Operation Raw Deal.

The largest crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs in US history, Raw Deal was an 18-month investigation that utilised law enforcement agencies and anti-doping organisations from around the globe.

Britain's failure to take part was a major embarrassment for a nation that had considered itself to be at the forefront of the anti-doping fight.

And when Wada made it clear that closer co-operation with law enforcement was its new watchword, the calls for the creation of a British body entirely focused on anti-doping, with closer links to the police and customs officials, could no longer be resisted.

Government commitment

Last month, Wada's new president John Fahey told BBC Sport he strongly supported the decision to take the anti-doping role from UK Sport and give it to the proposed Nado. He also said fostering closer links between sport's testing regimes and government was his priority.

"A decade ago governments had little interest in drugs in sport, they left it to sporting bodies," said Fahey.

"Now they are very much out there because they recognise that it is a public health problem.

"Therefore, governments' commitment is greater than it has ever been and continues to grow. So that's certainly a challenge for me and for Wada - to join governments and sport even more effectively."

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