Report: Doctor claims he gave British Tour de France riders and other sportspeople banned substances
A British doctor has claimed that he provided unnamed British Tour de France riders plus other sporting clients with performance-enhancing drugs, according to a major Sunday Times story.
The story quoted the doctor in question, Mark Bonar, as saying that he helped the athletes obtain the substances, which are forbidden under anti-doping rules.
The 38 year old told undercover reporters that he had prescribed banned performance- enhancing drugs to 150 elite sportsmen. He said that these included British Tour de France cyclists, an England cricketer, a British boxing champion, tennis players, martial arts competitors and Premier League footballers.
He told them that over the past six years he had treated sportspeople from the UK and abroad with banned substances such as erythropoietin (EPO), steroids and human growth hormone. He described the performance improvements were “phenomenal”
Dr Bonar was secretly filmed at a private London clinic by an undercover reporter, who pretended to be an athlete experiencing difficulties recovering from training.
In one video recording, Dr Bonar tells the athlete that testosterone and growth hormone are very important for recovery and also in building strength.
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“Obviously some of these treatments I use are banned on the professional circuit,” he states. “So you have to be mindful of that. Having said that, I have worked with lots of professional athletes who do use these treatments, but it’s how you do it.’
The initial consultation cost £780. Two weeks later, the athlete returned and was told that his blood tests were normal. Despite that, Dr. Bonar continued to suggest taking banned substances.
He mentioned haematocrit levels in blood and talked about how they could be improved.
“The way that you would boost that potentially is to use EPO,” he said. He also suggested that the undercover reporter used DHEA and injected growth hormone, also banned in sport. He offered him an injection of a slow-release testosterone at that point in time.
Another undercover reporter accompanied the first to the third meeting, posing as his uncle. He made clear that the athlete was aiming to make it to the British Olympic squad.
Dr. Bonar conceded that the patient had no medical problems, but described his levels as ‘suboptimal.’ He justified the prescribing of banned substances to him.
“The truth of the matter is that drugs are in sport. What I do is I prescribe responsibly and I try to keep my patients the optimum level of normal.”
He added that he would give him guidance on how to avoid positive tests.
“What we don’t want to be doing is doping you up with loads of stuff and all your stuff goes of the scale and then you are going to end up in trouble.
“He could have a couple of boxes of EPO in the fridge, for example, and you would monitor your own haematocrit levels. Your haematocrit levels drop, you can give yourself a top up. You want to do it off cycle or between races.”
Responding to the Sunday Times, the British culture secretary John Whittingdale ordered an inquiry into the taxpayer-funded UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) watchdog.
The Sunday Times said that it was given evidence about the doping activities two years ago, yet failed to act on the matter.
Whittingdale described himself as “shocked and deeply concerned” by the revelations about Bonar and suggested that Ukad’s chief executive Nicole Sapstead should resign. He said that he wanted an urgent independent investigation into Ukad’s actions when the allegations were first mentioned.
The Sunday Times said that an athlete who had been suspended for breaking anti-doping rules had tipped it off about Dr. Bonar.
The sportsman was frustrated as he had originally told Ukad about the doctor, trying to get a reduction in his suspension. He provided documents proving that he had been prescribed the substances by Dr. Bonar, yet Ukad declined to take action.
It said that the evidence was of ‘little or no value.’
Ukad said it had no jurisdiction over the doctor, yet didn’t pass on the information to the General Medical Council (GMC), which could have acted.
Ukad has said that an independent review will be carried out.
Thus far no athlete’s names have been published. The Sunday Times has said that it will not make them public until the doctor’s claims have been fully investigated.