UK Anti-Doping has been heavily criticised by the World Anti-Doping Agency for failing to properly investigate “potential wrongdoing by individuals in both British Cycling and Ukad” dating back to 2011.
Wada’s independent Intelligence and Investigations Department launched ‘Operation Echo’ in March of this year following a Mail on Sunday story into alleged wrongdoing in British Cycling and Ukad in the build-up to the London Olympics.
Wada criticised a Ukad-led investigation called Operation Blackout which began in 2018 following two anonymous letters that alleged Ukad and British Cycling had concealed doping.
The letters claimed Ukad had allowed British Cycling to collect samples from elite riders and screen them for the androgen and anabolic steroid, nandrolone.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, Wada said that Operation Echo had established wrongdoing. “Contrary to the rules laid down by the World Anti-Doping Code and the relevant International Standard, the samples were collected by British Cycling staff rather than doping control officers, analysed by a non-WADA-accredited laboratory, and provided by the athletes on the basis that Ukad would never know the results,” it wrote. “‘Operation Echo’ also established that at least one Ukad employee was aware of the study and that the samples could be collected and analyzed at a non-Wada-accredited laboratory.
“To this day, Ukad has no record of ever receiving the analysis results and emails that would have showed Ukad’s real-time knowledge of key events.”
Wada said it was “concerned by the failure” of Operation Blackout to search British Cycling laptops for “relevant emails” after the letters claimed the devices held evidence. “Had Operation Blackout conducted this search, it would have discovered the same emails found by Operation Echo in 2021.”
Despite the findings, neither Ukad nor British Cycling face any punishment.
Wada I&I Director, Gunter Younger, said: “‘Operation Echo’ makes no corrective recommendations as those involved in the events of 2011 are no longer employed by Ukad, and Ukad has already put safeguards in place to avoid a repeat occurrence.”
Younger added: “It is important to acknowledge that Wada I&I received the full cooperation and transparency of British Cycling and Ukad throughout our investigation.”
In a statement, Ukad said it welcomed the investigation’s findings, adding that “these matters would not take place today”.
“The report from Wada makes clear the results of the testing carried out by British Cycling were all negative and notes the negative results from Ukad’s own extensive testing of British Cycling athletes at that time,” Ukad said.
British Cycling, meanwhile, said Wada’s findings clearly “attached no fault” to the organisation or the unnamed riders involved in the study.
It further stressed that it only conducted the testing “having sought and received the express approval” of Ukad’s then head of legal Graham Arthur.
“We now look forward to assisting Ukad where we can in the audit of their decision-making processes planned by their interim Chief Executive Emily Robinson,” British Cycling said in a statement, which stressed that over the last five years the organisation had made “many sector-leading and transformative changes to our own processes”.
‘Operation Echo’ also investigated two further allegations, that Ukad had released individual athletes’ Athlete Biological Passport data to British Cycling in 2016; and that Ukad had allowed two athletes, who were advancing a contaminated supplements defence following Adverse Analytical Findings, to privately test the products in question, and that Ukad had accepted the results of the resultant analysis at the subsequent anti-doping hearing.
Wada’s statement on Tuesday night said that ‘Operation Echo’ had found “no evidence to uphold these allegations”.
British Cycling said the report’s finding in relation to the Biological Passport allegation was “entirely in line with the statement we made when this matter was raised in April this year”.
It said the allegation arose after a former British Cycling employee made a proposal to the federation’s anti-doping commission, which included two representatives from UK Anti-Doping, that UKAD share information from athlete biological passport monitoring with the medical team for the Great Britain Cycling Team.
“The minutes from the meeting record that this proposal was made with the intention of better supporting the work of anti-doping organisations,” said British Cycling. “The minutes also record that the proposal was not accepted and that this would be confirmed in writing.”
British Cycling said the third allegation, relating to the “two athletes” who were allowed to conduct private tests to prove their supplements were contaminated, “concerned athletes from another sport”.