EXCLUSIVE: Experts call for anti-doping forces to get greater legal powers
Scandals continue to rock international sport, prompting calls from experts to grant anti-doping forces, such as UK Anti-Doping and the World Anti-Doping Agency, substantial legal powers.
Reputations of governing bodies in a range of sports continue to be tarnished with frustrations from both officials, and the public, at limitations on measures that can be taken.
Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton believes that governing bodies and governments across the world should join forces in supporting one unit developed to tackle corruption.
Speaking exclusively to Sports Gazette, he said: “I think there should be an international anti-doping force that has proper legal powers, can go into people's bank accounts, can storm their houses. It should be like an Interpol.
“The whole thing's got to change.
“It should be an anti-corruption force, properly funded by sports and by governments, that covers not just doping but corruption in sport.
“So it's actually got the power and we're not waiting for the Feds to drag all those FIFA guys out of a hotel in Zurich.”
The intricate ties to political and personal interests as well as the multi-million and multi-billion pound investments mean sport is exposed to manipulation and malpractice.
And Lawton admitted: “There's so much corruption in sport - it's keeping me in a job and other people in a job!
“There's so much to go at, there's so many bad people in sport.
“There's lots of great people and there's lots of wonderful sport - covering Olympics, World Cup finals and Leicester in the Premier League is brilliant - but, as we've seen with the IAAF, FIFA and the Russian doping program, it's so vulnerable to corruption.”
From The Daily Telegraph’s Sam Allardyce sting to increasing allegations of match-fixing in tennis, sport has continually hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in the past 12 months.
One of the biggest current corruption scandals centres on Team Sky, British Cycling and the investigation into the package couriered to Sir Bradley Wiggins at the end of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.
Lawton, who was named 2016 Sports News Reporter of the Year at the Sports Journalists’ Association awards evening, broke the story of the mystery delivery.
Damning and devastating revelations by UKAD chief Nicole Sapstead in the latest Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing on Wednesday 1st March have left both Team Sky and British Cycling’s reputations in tatters.
But Lawton has been frustrated by the progress, or lack of, being made at investigations due to the limitations imposed on the anti-doping agencies and their inability to legally bind witnesses to comply and impose sanctions if they don’t.
He said: “We're not taking it seriously - they're playing at it. Dick Pound (former WADA President) says we're playing at it. They're barely scraping the surface.
“WADA and UKAD have got no power, no power to crack this jiffy bag story.
“They've got no power to go into people's bank accounts and as I say to just put people in the room and actually if they don't tell the truth, they could end up in jail.
“If they don't tell the truth, they might end up getting an anti-doping rule violation for not telling the truth if they can prove that but they've got no legal power at all.”WADA and UKAD have got no power, no power to crack this jiffy bag story.”
UKAD do have legal ties though and have recently appointed Trevor Pearce as their chairman, replacing David Kenworthy.
Pearce, like his predecessor, comes from a law enforcement background and is the former head of both the National Crime Squad and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Lawton fully supports the thinking behind this appointment, rather than the organisation taking on someone with a more sport-specific history.
In turn, current UKAD board member Professor John Brewer praised Pearce’s credentials and stressed how he believes the new chairman will successfully use his policing contacts, as well as investigations and intelligence experience, to benefit the organisation.
He said: “I know first and foremost that Trevor has got great insight, has got a great mind and is very much aware of the challenges we face within the world of anti-doping.
“I think what Trevor will do is reinforce the links that we have with law enforcement.
“He’ll be able to ensure that we do continue down the route of working with the police, the customs authorities to ensure that we do understand the criminal minds and behaviours of bringing banned substances into the country.”
Brewer added how he thinks Pearce will effectively lead the non-executive members and press the executive body to continue cracking down on illegal drug practices.
He said: “I also think he’ll be a great chairman for the organisation, challenging the executive team but also being a critical friend.
“I’ll be disappointed to be leaving anti-doping in just four months’ time because I’d love to see Trevor at work and see how he does by driving the organisation forward.”