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Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

New UK anti-doping body confirmed

By Matt Slater

Test tubes at an anti-doping laboratory
The new testing agency has been held up for months by rows over costs

Britain's much-delayed drug-testing body will finally be in operation by the end of 2009, Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe has confirmed.

The new national anti-doping agency (Nado) will take on the responsibility for drug testing from UK Sport, the body that also funds elite sport.

The agency, provisionally called UK Anti-Doping, will cost £7.2m a year, a 60% hike on the current testing budget.

"The Nado will build on UK Sport's excellent work," said Sutcliffe.

"But the global fight against doping sport has shifted and the move to a new, stand-alone Nado reflects that change."

As well as continuing UK Sport's "world-leading" athlete education and testing work, Sutcliffe said the new body will be given "significant new powers" to ensure Britain remains in the forefront of anti-doping efforts in the build-up to London 2012.

These new powers will include a more centralised approach to pursuing doping cases, and much closer links will be sought with law enforcement agencies, particularly Customs and Excise and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

Everyone is in agreement that this is the right thing to do and it was essential we took the time to do it properly

UK Sport's John Steele

"We have learned that to be truly effective we need the ability to target manufacturers, traffickers and suppliers of prohibited substances," added Sutcliffe, who was speaking at an anti-doping conference hosted by UK Sport at Lord's.

Confirmation of a deadline for the Nado, and details of its improved funding, will come as a great relief to all involved in the battle against drugs cheats as fears had been growing that the independent body would not be up-and-running in time for London 2012.

First announced to universal approval in December 2007, the agency was supposed to have opened for business last year but arguments between UK Sport and the Government over start-up costs have stalled the project.

Those up-front costs are believed to have been trimmed from £3m to £1.8m but there are still important issues, such as a name and location for the Nado, to be resolved.

The latter is believed to be the most problematic: the anti-dopers wish to stay in London (close to most of the major stakeholders in British sport, the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory at King's College, law enforcement agencies and sports law experts) but this runs contrary to current government thinking on moving agencies to cheaper sites outside London.

David Millar
David Millar admitted doping in 2004 but now campaigns for clean sport

What is clear, however, is that the separation of UK Sport's elite performance and testing divisions brings Britain in line with established practice in most serious sporting nations and ends any debate over potential conflicts of interest for an agency that both funds and polices British sport.

It should also resolve concerns that Britain had fallen behind the likes of Australia and the US in the way they had moved the anti-doping effort away from simply collecting and analysing urine samples to a more intelligence-led approach that targets serious offenders and suppliers.

UK Sport's chief executive John Steele welcomed the news, saying: "The new Nado marks an exciting chapter in anti-doping in the UK. We are sending out a clear statement of intent that doping in this country will not be tolerated.

"Everyone is in agreement that this is the right thing to do and it was essential we took the time to do it properly.

"I am delighted the funding for the Nado has been confirmed and, in many ways, the real work starts now to get it operational by the end of the year."

Britain's commitment to setting up an independent Nado was also given a warm reception by Wada, which has been championing closer links between drug-testing bodies and other government agencies for some time.

"The sharing of information between law enforcement and anti-doping organisations can be crucial in exposing anti-doping rule violations," said Wada's director general David Howman.

But one step the Government and Nado will not be taking is to make doping a criminal offence, as has started to happen elsewhere in Europe, most notably in Italy.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today Programme earlier on Wednesday, Sutcliffe said criminalisation was a "step too far" and the "sporting sanctions were tough enough". The maximum penalty for a serious doping offence has just been doubled from two to four years.

Andy Parkinson, UK Sport's current anti-doping chief and the most likely candidate to head the new Nado, agreed with the minister, adding it was important to "strike a balance" between giving athletes who made a mistake, such as cyclist David Millar, a second chance, and providing a "strong deterrent" for those tempted to cheat.

But that debate looks set to rumble on, particularly if another large drugs scandal breaks before London 2012.

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see also
Legal threat to anti-doping code
22 Jan 09 |  Sport Homepage
Athletes to face new doping rules
22 Jan 09 |  Athletics
Beijing re-testing plans revised
09 Dec 08 |  Olympics
Home drugs test idea upsets PFA
11 Nov 08 |  Football
Drugs chief admits Olympic fears
07 Aug 08 |  Beijing 2008
IOC boss targets doping suspects
11 Jul 08 |  Beijing 2008
New body to tackle UK drug cheats
05 Dec 07 |  Sport Homepage
Wada to herald new drugs approach
14 Nov 07 |  Sport Homepage
UK Sport denies 'fudge'
23 Mar 04 |  Sport Homepage
UK Sport 'weak' on drugs
22 Mar 04 |  Sport Homepage

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