Question for Short Debate
My Lords, when a little over a week ago I put down this Question for Short Debate on a topical matter, I had, as always, that slight feeling that the subject would have slipped from the news. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Indeed, this issue has become more relevant than it was when I secured the debate. At that point there had merely been an outcry against Russia, but since then Russia has been banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the IAAF. If ever there was a subject that is full of acronyms—and I do not like them—it is this one. Today, five other nations have been declared non-compliant: Argentina, Ukraine, Bolivia, Israel and Andorra—one of the world’s largest nations along with one of its smallest. More worrying still is the list of nations that have been placed on a watchlist for non-compliance. The coverage I have seen puts Brazil at the top. Brazil is the nation that will host the next Olympic and Paralympic Games. If anyone is feeling slightly complacent about this, let us look at who is with Brazil on the watchlist: France, Belgium, Greece, Mexico and Spain, four of which are members of the European Union. The international element of this is overwhelming.
I shall return to the original subject. ARD, a German television station, did a wonderful piece of investigative journalism which pointed out the problems in Russia. For this the station should be thanked wholeheartedly by the rest of the world. Indeed, it is a good thing for this House to be able to thank any branch of the press for doing excellent work, and I hope others will follow me in that.
The World Anti-Doping Agency sent in an independent commission to look at Russia. The commission’s report is one of the most depressing documents I have ever had to go through. There is state corruption or state collusion in corruption—a sort of “Everyone else in the world is doing it so you must do it better”—when it comes to doping. Bribes are being made in a system that was corrupt anyway. Noble Lords will know that when they normally read a report, they go through it saying, “This is fine but that is not”. Only around one in 30 lines that I read said that someone was not breaking the rules. It was basically appalling. On the action taken, after the report was published, the only thing the IAAF could do was put a suspension in place. Why does this matter? It matters because sport matters. The Olympics, which people are now saying are tarnished or were sabotaged, may have had some of the shine rubbed off, but that is probably overstating the case. A celebration of sporting activity brings people together.
This scandal may be about athletics, or athletics-led, but if there is a culture of cheating, everything is up for grabs and the whole thing is under threat. We do not think rugby union has any major problems with drugs at the moment, but Russia could have qualified for the last World Cup. However, the whole of Russian sport has now been called into question. Indeed, when we look at the non-compliance list we see that Argentina, which reached the semi-finals of the tournament, is on it. What this means for football and the other major sports, we do not know, but there are major problems in this area.
We should remember that sport is effectively recognised as a kind of “wonder drug” in terms of healthcare. Getting the people of this nation fitter is seen as a way of helping and encouraging them to make themselves healthy and thus save money in the NHS. It does not help if the international example being set by those at the top shows that they have been systematically cheating and so have taken away from the importance of this issue. It just does not work.
What should we be doing? The independent commission was brought in by WADA from the outside to report on these matters. It may be a model that we will have to use again and again. My first real question is: are the Government of the United Kingdom prepared to support and help fund all these steps in the future? Something will have to be done in this area. When I looked at it originally, I thought that perhaps we should demand that Russia should pay for the monitoring in the future. It would be a nice idea, would it not? An independent commission, perhaps even a permanent one, is what is needed, or at least it will have to be regularly reconstituted. Also, how are we going to interact with our international partners to make sure that something good comes out of this? Those are very real questions.
We also need to look at what we doing with legislation on the home front. There is a long-running debate around criminalisation: do we criminalise those who are taking part in doping? We should remember that we have had cases of it in our own country. Have the Government looked at the various models which have been put in place elsewhere? Which ones do they think work best? The gut reaction is that “something should be done”. If, however, that is not seen to be the most efficient way forward, should it mean six months in prison as opposed to a four-year ban and a change of career? I do not know which of those would bite harder. What are we doing to support our own agencies and checking to see whether they are able to do their job in the best way possible? If we wish to enjoy the benefits of sport, it is quite clear that we cannot merely leave it to the sporting bodies themselves. They need support and structure from the outside.
The Russian example is one where the state intervenes and condones these practices, at which point everything basically goes to hell. Are we going to intervene to support these independent structures? Also, how are we going to support whistleblowers both here and abroad? How are we going to make sure that someone who is charged with making sure that people are compliant is actually doing that? On reading the report, it is quite clear that no one felt that there was anywhere they could go to report these practices, and that was a huge part of the culture. All small organisations should get involved, along with political parties, sports bodies, the local golf club—you name it—because they all have this problem to a greater or lesser extent. Where can you go and where is it safe to report these practices that is outside the structure you are part of? What are we doing in this area? These are things with which the Government can help, even if only indirectly, and they will be much more efficient if they move forward with friends. We have to co-operate on this both with those we talk to regularly and those we talk to only occasionally. Sport is a forum that has made us regularly come together in the past, and it is where people can bury their differences.
The noble Lord, Lord Bates, has talked about the Olympic truce. Let us take a little of that spirit and carry it on to make sure we maintain the momentum. Can the Government give us some assurances about what they are doing in this area? I ask that because this is what is required. The more I look at this, the more worried I am.
I finally ask: what are we going to do to initialise the problem of accepting that we have ongoing tasks? The noble Viscount may not have that information because I did not give him advance warning of that question. It is clear that things have expanded, but do we have plans to ensure that we take this on for the future? Will we be able to institute groups that will lead the athletics and sporting groups into a format where they undertake activity that goes beyond current normal talking? We clearly need that.
I could go into a great more detail about the report. The noble Earl, Lord Courtown, is shaking his head—he is quite wise. I shall end by saying simply that unless we take action now we will throw away something very good, and I do not think that any of us wants to do that.
My Lords, we might have hoped that the World Anti-Doping Agency—WADA—would have exposed the most recent scandal involving Russia. We might have expected WADA to have welcomed the in-depth news investigative journalism serving the cause of clean athletes. But the reverse is true. It was not WADA; it was the German broadcaster ADR and then the Sunday Times. It was the excellent work of Hajo Sappelt. It was not WADA which broke the BALCO story and exposed Marion Jones, but the law enforcement agencies. It was not WADA but the Sunday Times and the law enforcement agencies which exposed the former era of pervasive drugs in cycling. When they did, the response of sports administrators too often defied belief. They went straight to their default position of blaming the press—a declaration of war against the Sunday Times in athletics, while Craig Reedie continued to praise Russia in his capacity as president of WADA. Why?
The problem is a straightforward conflict of interest. WADA is equally owned by Governments and the IOC. Those IOC members involved see Russia’s electoral power in the world of sports administration wielding a significant influence. The same applies in international sports federations. Where Governments and their sports administrations are one and the same, they risk losing political support if they show determined leadership in the war against drugs wherever they are endemic.
WADA is in need of fundamental and far-reaching reform and Governments have done far too little. Why Governments? Because they are full partners in WADA but their level of representation is often well beneath the seniority in government required to manage this issue, which is now a crisis. The Government pay a significant contribution to WADA, so now is the time for my honourable friend the Minister to call for an independent audit, because it is failing to lead and failing to succeed. WADA was even subject to serious criticism by its own independent commission, led by a former WADA president. The noble Lord, Lord Addington—I am grateful to him for raising the subject—outlined the 11 countries which are currently non-compliant or on a watch list. The dark and dirty underbelly of sport is being laid bare. It is time for sponsors to act. It is time for Governments to act. It is time for sports administrators to act. Despite all the warnings, we hobble from scandal to scandal.
Dick Pound, who headed the independent commission’s first report, concluded that London was sabotaged by the drug cheats. The head of WADA, Craig Reedie, quickly and publicly disagreed with his own independent commission, further compounding the mixed messages coming from WADA. Has he forgotten that clean athletes have been denied their medals? Competing chemists’ laboratories work around the clock to boost the chances of their athletes through drug-induced cheating. Now we know that Russia’s endemic corruption sabotaged our Games. Honest would-be champions suffer when the chance to fulfil their Olympic ambitions is stolen from them; when Olympic medals are snatched from their grasp; and when they are robbed not just of Olympic glory but of all the associated rewards they deserve.
The World Anti-Doping Agency boss, David Howman, believes that one in 10 athletes is a drugs cheat—a figure less than that arrived at by the 2015 Dutch National Anti-Doping Agency report, which concluded that 14% to 39% is the best available estimate. David Howman at least had the courage to tell an Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association conference last month:
“I want to pose the question: should doping be a criminal matter? It is in Italy, and WE think—some of US—that the real deterrent that cheating athletes fear is the fear of going to prison not the fear of being stood down from their sport for a year, two years, four years but a fear of going to prison”.
Yet days later, in the face of a growing interest in legislative proposals for criminalisation of doping in sport around the world, his boss Craig Reedie said that WADA is,
“completely opposed to the criminalisation of athletes”.
We should follow many other countries and consider the criminalisation of doping in sport. I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Sport that this is under review. I wonder whether the Minister here today can update the House on progress in that regard.
As the Russian crisis besetting athletics was breaking, WADA was quick to stand by Russia. The president wrote to Natalia Zhelanova, the Russian anti-doping commissar, stating:
“I wish to make it clear to you and to the Minister that there is no action being taken by WADA that is critical of the efforts which I know have been made, and are being made, to improve anti-doping efforts in Russia”.
WADA, he continued, were,
“pleased that these relationships have survived much of the adverse publicity caused by the ARD television programs (which are likely to continue for some time) … I value the relationships with Minister Mutko and would be grateful if you (Natalia Zhelanova) will inform him that there is no intention in WADA to do anything to affect that relationship”.
How could WADA and the Governments—its members—get the situation so horribly wrong? It is time for Governments to join a call for a full and independent review into both their own and their member state contributions to WADA, and to support the call for far-reaching and much overdue reform. This audit should, please, be led by totally independent lawyers and medics, supported by clean athletes with the skill sets needed to lead the campaign on doping in sport worldwide. It should not be led by people who rely on IOC members and International Sports Federation representatives for their electoral success—for their jobs. Such a soft approach against the country with the highest number of drug cheats in the world beggars belief in the fight on behalf of clean athletes.
Equally serious, another senior member and close friend of the president of WADA, Pat Hickey, who is on the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, went public within days of the publication of the damning revelations in the Pound Report, confident that Russia will be back for Rio. Every time that is said by a senior IOC member before action is taken, the compliance bar is being lowered. The principle of zero tolerance is fast becoming a contradiction in terms.
Those in this House who regularly speak in debates on sport look to the Government to ensure that full transparency, accountability and professional management are in place before tax and lottery money are invested. The corridors of sport, I am afraid, are riddled with conflicts of interest. We have our own example. Perhaps the Minister could inform the House what action was taken when Nicole Sapstead, the UK Anti-Doping chief executive, sent emails to the head of the British Olympic Association—I declare an interest, having chaired it in the run-up to London 2012—after an investigation by the Sunday Times revealing widespread blood doping in athletics, stating that,
“we will do everything we can to ensure the focus is on the positive news. The last thing we want is a story like this detracting from the Rio countdown”.
The role of all anti-doping agencies should be wholly, necessarily and exclusively focused on tackling drug abuse in sport. There can never be any other considerations.
It all comes back to those in charge and the urgent need for a step change in the governance of sport both nationally and internationally. Governance is critical. All office holders in international sports organisations should be paid the going rate for their jobs. Conflicts of interest must end. The test used in your Lordships’ House of whether a reasonable person would believe that a conflict existed must apply to all senior sports administrators both nationally and internationally, starting at the top. The moment you choose to be a leading sports administrator, you have to turn away from seeking to make money from sport as a businessman or woman. After all, it is very difficult to substantiate that you are going to spend every waking hour tackling doping in sport if you have a highly paid day job in sport, accountable to your shareholders.
Michael Beloff QC is advising the IAAF and my noble friend Lord Coe. In the light of the current crisis and in the interests of good governance, that advice should be made public. I ask the Minister to seek to obtain that advice and place it in the House Library.
I conclude by giving the reason why I feel so strongly about this. It is because the casualties are the clean sportsmen and sportswomen. Cheating is inimical to the very essence of sport and to its philosophy of team spirit, honesty and loyalty. Cheating, by whatever means, has no place in sport. These cheats have shredded the dreams of clean athletes with every needle they inject. They have destroyed the years of training and competition necessary for a clean athlete to reach the pinnacle of sport.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for this timely debate. I also welcome the Minister to the world of acronyms.
When I see the cases in the press about a sport that I love and a sport I participated in, part of me is hugely disappointed. However, as an ex-athlete and a fan, I am also pleased because these issues need to be raised. There have been rumours and speculation, but we cannot act on them; we need cold, hard facts about what is happening in the world of sport, because it has a much greater effect. It affects parents’ choices about which sports they allow their children to do. It affects participation, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said. It affects how people view activity. This also has a massive impact on the UK.
Personally, I have a strong view on athletes who are caught cheating. If I had a preference I would ban them from sport for life. I recognise that that is extremely difficult to do, but it is a huge privilege to compete for your country in your sport. A certain responsibility has to go with that. As an athlete, I was on the Whereabouts programme and I was tested. As a young female athlete, providing a sample is hugely daunting. The first time I was called into a test, I did not particularly know what I was about to do. You have to be stripped from your bra to your knees and you have someone watch you give a sample. That is part of your job as an athlete and part of your responsibility. I willingly did it because I really believe that sport at this level has to be clean.
I argued consistently over the years that any lottery-funded athlete should be part of the programme. Although in the early years of lottery funding Paralympic athletes were not on the programme, I am delighted that they now are. One of the misconceptions about disabled athletes is that there is a different list of testing. It is exactly the same. Very few disabled athletes take medication for their condition, but we are subject to exactly the same tests as everyone else.
I declare an interest in anti-doping. I sat on the first UCI investigation into Lance Armstrong, which seemed like a good idea at the time but it was incredibly ill fated. As a fan of cycling, I watched each of Armstrong’s wins. I was amazed. I wore his yellow band, until, at the end of 2004, I was told to take it off by someone I trust in sport. The UCI announced in October 2012 that it would establish a fully independent external commission to investigate the allegations from USADA, the US Anti-Doping Agency. John Coates, the president of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and a senior member of the IOC was asked to set up this commission. I was joined by Sir Philip Otton and Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes. The plan was that we would have a team of forensic accountants and medical experts who would advise the commission. We were due to hold a two-week hearing. In the end it was a single day, because the UCI, even though it funded it and spent a significant amount of money, refused to hand over a single piece of paper. It quickly became obvious that it had no intention of being involved in the process. Brian Cookson, who stood as president on the platform of sorting out the sport, has since carried out a further investigation.
However, it is not just the athletes taking drugs, but the corruption and everything that goes with it. It is the bribery and the coercion. I have a certain degree of sympathy for the Russian athletes. It would not have been a choice for them; it would have been, “Do this or else”. I also did an investigation for British Athletics when Dwain Chambers came back into the sport after serving a ban period. It was a very messy period. Here was a young man who had lots of talent and who had made some really poor choices. Again, I had a huge amount of sympathy for him, but a number of people in the UK knew that he was going into a destructive and suspected environment, but they did not stop him. There was nothing we could do about that.
Not only do I take a tough stance about athletes; it is also about coaches and associated personnel, because rarely do athletes do this on their own. Taking performance-enhancing drugs is relatively easy; they are quite easy to obtain. However, it is understanding the microdosing and how to avoid detection that you need a huge amount of expertise on. It is quite expensive as well.
I was disappointed when the British Olympic Association was forced to change its rule. The BOA stood up very strongly in the world and said, “We do not want to take anyone who served a banned period to the Olympics”, but because of international rules it had to change that. I was disappointed when it went from a four-year ban to a two-year ban—luckily it is going back the other way—because we have to send out this really strong deterrent that taking performance-enhancing drugs in sport is just not the right thing to do.
We found out about the case of BALCO because there was a falling out between Victor Conte—the architect of the drugs—and one of the coaches, Trevor Graham. He coached Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery and was the one who sent the syringe to WADA, which enabled them to develop the tests. We cannot forget that Marion Jones never failed a drugs test. There are other athletes in the world who have and it has been covered up by their federation. This has to stop. We cannot overestimate the challenge that the noble Lord, Lord Coe, is going through, but I believe that you have to be on the inside. There have been rumours around the Russian athletes for a number of years, but you need to have the facts of who has taken drugs.
Just recently, a 17 year-old Chinese athlete, Qing Wenyi, died at a training camp. They believe that that was from state-sponsored drug taking. She will be one of many athletes who we will never hear about, who have no choice about this, but sport is their way to a better life. If it is a choice between taking drugs and potentially ending up in prison, the athletes will make the choice in front of them.
In paralympic sport this is not such an issue, although this week a Russian athlete, Alexander Zverev, has been banned for a nine-month period for taking cannabinoids. It is very expensive to successfully dope competitors involved in paralympic sport, and paralympic sport does not have the money to do that. However, as more money moves into paralympic sport, that may become more of an issue. The issue in paralympic sport is around cheating classification. The difficulty is that athletes are divided into different classes based on their level of impairment. Athletes will fall one side of the line or the other, and it is not as clear cut as just breaking the rules.
On 12 October this year, as reported in Inside the Games, a web-based newsletter, the IPC issued a statement about what it calls intentional manipulation and said that it,
“is in grave danger of undermining the credibility”,
of paralympic swimming. This statement refers just to swimming but I am sure there are issues in other sports. An email seen by Inside the Games, sent from the IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez to national paralympic committee and national federation presidents, outlines the threat posed by intentional manipulation. The email entitled, “Athlete/Support Personnel Conduct during IPC Swimming Classification” states that this is a “serious issue”. The email continues,
“we believe we have witnessed, and have heard of, a number of cases of alleged intentional misrepresentation during the classification evaluation process of athletes”.
This has a massive effect on the sport but did not warrant front page news or much reporting in the sports press. The email continues:
“Wherever IM takes place it strikes at the heart of fair play, threatens the concept of excellence in Para-sport, and goes against the requirements of the IPC Classification Code and the classification rules of IPC Swimming”.
However, there is no penalty. If an athlete gets moved, nothing happens to the country or to the athlete. For me that has serious implications for the future of paralympic sport because some countries will seek to move athletes into a classification which will better aid their performance. I believe that it is a responsibility of sport in the UK to ensure that athletes are correctly classified. We only have to look back to the 2000 Paralympics, when the Spanish basketball team pretended to have learning disabilities. It turned out that most of them were journalists. They cheated the classification with the result that a group of learning disabled athletes got thrown out of the sport. That has a huge impact on the wider sport and is very disappointing.
In this country we have UKAD, which is under the threat of a funding cut. We should ensure that it receives greater support. The noble Lord, Lord Lord Moynihan, was right to talk about WADA’s independence. At the moment it is too closely tied up and it is impossible to find a way through. We have to have an independent body. So my question to the Minister is: can the Government guarantee that appropriate funding will be made available to UKAD to ensure that it is able to do the necessary testing? Will Her Majesty’s Government consider criminalising the use of performance enhancing drugs?
I also believe strongly that athletes should be rehabilitated. We should not just penalise them. But now is the time when we have to take a much tougher stance or this will carry on and in another year, five years or 10 years we will have more front page headlines on this issue and it will never end.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Addington for introducing this debate. He referred briefly to rugby. One of the best moments in the recent Rugby World Cup was when Scotland was playing South Africa at the home of Newcastle United, St James’ Park, and Stuart Hogg, the full back, took a dive to the floor when he was brushed by a South African prop. The Welsh referee, Nigel Owens, told him that he had seen what happened. He said:
“There was nothing wrong with it. Dive like that again and come back here in two weeks and play”,
soccer. He added, “Not today. Watch it”. There is a difference in culture between sports. Perhaps professional soccer players are extraordinarily fragile in the penalty area. Is it cheating or is it all part of the game?
Rugby has its own problems. It is my experience that violence on the pitch is proportionate to the age of the players: the more veteran the player, the more likely he will commit acts on the field which would have him arrested if he committed them in the street. But, of course, they are protected by the omertà of the team. Players do not want to see policemen on the pitch. I recall one game when a second row in the scrum where I was flanker landed a punch on the opposing prop which broke his jaw. The referee got it wrong and sent our prop off instead of the second row. I put on my professional cap and said to the second row, “Frank, say nothing, don’t admit anything, don’t deny anything”. He was not prosecuted but the player with the broken jaw made an application for criminal injuries compensation. I do not know what happened to it so perhaps that was not the right thing to do.
It is this traditional silence which has protected those high-performance coaches, the so-called sports scientists and sports staff who have engaged in the distribution of prohibited substances to athletes and professional sports players and are undermining the integrity of sport. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, pointed out the pressures on the athletes themselves when they are under this influence.
In May 2006, the Spanish police launched Operation Puerto with the aim of cracking down on doping in sport. It was aimed at cycling, though few were sanctioned out of the dozens implicated. A Mr Fuentes, a former gynaecologist known as Dr Blood, was at the heart of that conspiracy. However, there is no specific crime in Spain for cheating in sport or other sporting fraud. He was in April 2013 given a one-year suspended sentence for endangering public health. Hundreds of blood samples were ordered by the court to be destroyed. Spain had won only four gold medals in 92 years of Olympic competition before the Barcelona Games in 1992. At that event, Spain won 13 gold medals. Dr Blood’s wife, Cristina Perez, an athlete who had been banned for drug offences after the 1988 Olympics, spoke about her husband’s work in the build-up to Barcelona:
“I know what happened in 1992 and I’m a Pandora’s Box that, if opened, could bring down sport. But out of respect for my companions, the people who sacrificed so much, I’m staying quiet, although I could speak out and ruin all those caught up in this little world”.
There it is: silence among the participants.
Other scandals have followed. Marina Hyde, writing in the Guardian in July 2013, put it very well. She said that cheats,
“ruin it for everyone else—participants, spectators—in many and diverse ways. They ruin it for years, for everyone. They turn expert observers into pained inquisitors; they make kids who should be dreamers into cynics; they retain the power to turn age-old human contests into an irrelevance. And ultimately, as the increasingly distrusted spectacles of cycling and sprinting are showing, they pervert the very desirability of being victorious”.
In 2011 the Australian Crime Commission began a project to consider the extent of the use of performance-enhancing and image-enhancing drugs by professional athletes in Australia, the size of the market and the extent of organised criminal involvement. It concluded in its report, published in 2013, that there was,
“a culture in some professional sports in Australia of administering untested and experimental substances to athletes in the hope they will provide an advantage in the highly competitive world of professional sport. In some instances, the substances are not yet approved for human use”.
But of course athletes accepted them—under pressure, perhaps, but they accepted them. Such drugs were also being used by sub-elite athletes competing at various levels of competition.
Now we have the report of the independent commission set up by WADA, which makes very depressing reading. The International Association of Athletics Federations, by 22 votes to one, suspended the All-Russia Athletic Federation provisionally and presumably after a hearing will proceed to full suspension. If the findings of the commission are upheld, no amount of assurances for the overhaul of sports governance in Russia or promises of good behaviour for the future should permit Russia to participate in the Rio Olympics. If that means that some Russians who are clean miss out, tough. It is only by peer pressure from such athletes that the culture of doping can be overcome. Nothing could be more disgusting than the soliciting of bribes by senior members of the federation to suppress the positive findings of drug misuse.
The investigation uncovered evidence that the IAAF itself had failed in its duty to ensure,
“the health and wellbeing of the ‘Athletics Family’”.
Instead, it found that,
“there existed a consistent disregard for ethical behaviour and a conspiracy to conduct and conceal corrupt behaviour by particular highly placed members and officials of IAAF”,
and the Russian federation, hence the arrest of the former president. We all should wish the noble Lord, Lord Coe, all the best in trying to clean up the mess. But I am not filled with any confidence by the news last weekend that the IAAF has appointed an inspection team with the terms of reference to,
“verify the reforms programme in Russia to enable the All-Russian Athletics Federation to gain reacceptance for IAAF membership”.
As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out, it is the electoral strength of that country in the governance of sport that no doubt leads to terms of reference such as those.
I am afraid we have reached the stage where the criminal law should be quite explicit about fraud, drugs and match-fixing in sport. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, did not refer to the Bill that he introduced in the previous Session, which, like the law of many of the Australian states, makes match-fixing a specific crime. But he has also drafted simple criminal offences in respect of drugs. He handed me a copy of the Bill at the Handa conference we went to recently, and I am very grateful to him. He has two new offences. The first is:
“An athlete is guilty of an offence if he or she knowingly takes a prohibited substance with the intention, or one of the intentions, of enhancing his or her performance”—
simple. Secondly, the Bill said that:
“A person belonging to the entourage of an athlete is guilty of an offence if he or she encourages or assists or hides awareness of the relevant athlete taking a prohibited substance with the intention, or one of the intentions, of enhancing such athlete’s performance”.
That is the way ahead. The noble Lord’s maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment was, in my view, far too low when compared with the 10 years that the Australian states have imposed. At the end of the day, it is the clean athletes who suffer from this invasion of their sport and I hope that we will hear from the Minister some positive steps towards dealing with this problem.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for initiating this incredibly timely and important debate. As we have heard, doping is wrong because it provides athletes with an unfair and fraudulent advantage over their competitors. It can also be harmful to individual athletes and their health. It may also involve associated criminal activity, such as the trafficking of specified substances. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, it also undermines the spirit of the sport. It is unethical and contrary to the values of fair play and respect for one’s opponent.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, reminded us of Lance Armstrong. What I found most shocking about his cheating was the apparent ease with which it was done. Threats of libel action against the media, large sums of money and vested interests all seemed to play their part in keeping the relevant authorities silent. With the report published by the World Anti-Doping Agency on 9 November, all those ingredients appear once again in play. As was highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, would the level of corruption found by the WADA have been uncovered without the original German media investigation? The WADA report said that,
“acceptance of cheating at all levels is widespread”,
in Russia and suggested that neither the Russians’ anti-doping agency nor ARAF, the Russian federation, can be considered anti-doping code-compliant.
The 2012 Olympic Games do not come through this unscathed either. The Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, reacted to the possibility that medals won by Russian athletes in London may be taken away by saying that,
“it’s the British system of doping control that operated there”,
under the leadership of the IOC, so our good name will be tarnished. Despite their initial reluctance, as we have heard, the International Association of Athletics Federations council members voted 22 to one in favour of Russia’s athletics federation being provisionally suspended from international competition, including the Olympic Games, for its alleged involvement in widespread doping.
What is perhaps most shocking is that, despite the scale of the allegations, they have been described as only the tip of the iceberg. In backing Russia’s suspension from competition, Ed Warner, the UK Athletics chairman, echoed Dick Pound’s views that there is more to come. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Addington, there are four, five, six or more nations with which athletics has a real problem.
The IAAF president, the noble Lord, Lord Coe, told BBC Sport:
“This is a wake-up call for all of us”,
and that he is wholly,
“focused on the changes that need to be made”.
Although the noble Lord was elected IAAF president only in August, he was vice-president for eight years, and current events make you wonder whether he was asleep on the job. I do not suppose that his being the first chair of FIFA’s ethics committee under Sepp Blatter or his employment by Nike, a company that supplies Russian athletes with their kit, will help people better to understand his judgment. Whatever view you take on these matters, no one can doubt the noble Lord’s obvious integrity, but his judgment must be beyond question as the investigations move forward. The question now is how he can best restore credibility. It is clear that no one within the organisation commands the confidence necessary to introduce transparency and accountability. The noble Lord will therefore need to ensure that at the IAAF he has a competent team of independent people around him able and willing to tackle cheating and corruption without fear or favour. Failure to act decisively will put the reputation of world athletics in grave peril.
Sadly, the implications of the WADA report may not be limited to athletics, with Pound adding that it is not the only sport with a doping problem. Baseball and, as we have heard, cycling have been beset by doping scandals in recent times, while a corruption crisis still involves football’s world governing body, FIFA. We now have people from the top of football and athletics potentially facing criminal proceedings. One action that the Government must take is to urge the National Crime Agency to investigate whether any crimes have taken place on UK soil.
This is not just about preventing doping in sport. It is clear from these revelations that a culture change is required, which is much more difficult to achieve. Our schools and education are a good starting point, and I ask the Minister whether consideration is being given to the programmes that can be undertaken, starting at the basic level in schools. At the end of the day, I wholeheartedly agree with the position of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, about WADA. It needs to be strengthened; that must be a priority and it must be a priority for this Government.
My Lords, I begin, as have other noble Lords, by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for calling this timely debate on an issue that strikes right at the heart of sporting integrity. Like every other sports fan, I was shocked at the conclusions of the independent commission’s report into allegations about Russian athletes. The noble Lord was withering in his comments about its contents, as was the noble Lord, Lord Collins. To find that top athletes whom many look up to are doping is difficult for most people to understand, but for it to be part of a wider-scale, state-sponsored conspiracy is even harder to comprehend.
I will pick up on a number of points made about the German documentary that led to the expose. I strongly agree and accept that the free press and the documentary makers deserve a great amount of credit for their invaluable work. In this regard, credit should also go to the Sunday Times, which has not only reported on doping but uncovered serious allegations in relation to FIFA. We do not accept or recognise any of the comments made by the Russian Sports Minister who criticised the outcome of the commission.
The report’s findings could read as a work of fiction. However, our experience from the events in cycling during the 1990s and the first decade of this century suggests that the findings in athletics are to be taken very seriously. While we have confidence in the robustness of the anti-doping system in the UK, we should never be complacent. International engagement is important in creating a global level playing field for our athletes to compete on.
It is important at this point that I set out the structure of anti-doping internationally and the level of UK involvement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, said, I must apologise for the number of acronyms that I am about to unleash on the House, but this will explain the role of various bodies in being compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA. Established in 2005, UNESCO’s International Convention against Doping in Sport is the primary instrument that underpins governmental support for anti-doping in each signatory state, and is a legally binding framework for Governments to recognise. WADA was established in 1999 and is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring compliance with the world anti-doping code, known as “the code”, and international standards.
I would like to pick up on some comments made by my noble friend Lord Moynihan on WADA. I take note of the strong criticism that he made of that organisation. He is correct in saying that the Government fund WADA, but we have confidence in the work that it does. The fact that we would not be present here today discussing this important matter had WADA not commissioned the independent report is a moot point to make, but I shall make some further points about WADA later on in my comments.
International sports federations such as the IOC and IAAF are signatories to the code and responsible for its implementation and for testing at their international competitions. In addition, national anti-doping organisations such as UK Anti-Doping, or UKAD, are responsible for educating and testing athletes and ensuring that our national governing bodies of sport are compliant with the code. In turn, they are responsible for tackling doping as a condition of membership of their international federation.
The UK’s traditional tough stance on drugs cheats is reflected in the work carried out by UKAD. In the UK, the Government have implemented the UNESCO convention by way of the national anti-doping policy, and task UKAD with delivering key government commitments pursuant to the UNESCO convention. It is pleasing to note that large-scale sporting events in the UK, from London 2012 to Glasgow 2014, and the recent Rugby World Cup, have seen low levels of positive tests. While that is encouraging, we must ensure that we are never complacent in the fight against doping. In 2017, London hosts the Athletics World Championships, and organisers are aiming to put on the cleanest championships ever. Organisers of major events can therefore be sure that the robust anti-doping systems used in the UK are a deterrent to athletes who cheat.
I am pleased to say that UKAD is widely viewed as one of the world’s leading national anti-doping organisations. It drives a robust clean sports programme, focusing on testing and sharing intelligence with law-enforcement agencies, as well as its excellent athlete education programme. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, raised the question of the funding of UKAD. It is subject to the Government’s spending review, to be announced on 25 November, but as noble Lords might expect I am unable to comment at this particular time. However, I reassure the House that the Government greatly value the work of UKAD, which has led to it being a world-leading organisation.
I am pleased to confirm that the UK, and our Crown dependencies and overseas territories, which have the UNESCO convention extended to them, are fully compliant with the convention’s commitments. In addition to national commitments, the UK is extremely proactive at international level in combating doping in sport. Of course, this is the essence of this debate. The national anti-doping policy requires UKAD to influence international policy, and conduct international advocacy for doping-free sport. The UK is a member of the bureau that seeks to implement resolutions adopted by UNESCO’s Conference of Parties. The UK is represented at the Council of Europe monitoring group meetings to assess and ensure that implementation of the convention is effective.
The UK also chairs the Council of Europe’s legal issues advisory group. The UK is represented at the ad hoc European committee for the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is known as CAHAMA. It is a forum that looks at the issues concerning relations between the Council of Europe, its member states and WADA and agrees a common European position ahead of meetings of WADA’s foundation board. It is important to note that WADA looks to pair national anti-doping organisations that it feels are underperforming or in need of support and advice with high-performing counterparts. To use a diving analogy, it is akin to a buddy system. For example, UKAD has been asked by WADA to work with its Belarusian counterpart to reach the required standard under the code to become compliant. In a similar vein, King’s College, London, the UK’s WADA-accredited laboratory, shares best practice with laboratories worldwide.
I now to turn to international forums. The UK is a member of international forums such as the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations, the International Anti-Doping Arrangement and the International Investors Group. These forums share best practice and support national anti-doping organisations.
I shall now focus on Russia. The reaction to the commission report on state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics has been swift and unequivocal. The IAAF vote to suspend Russian athletes from all competition was unanimous and reflected the worldwide reaction. It was 22 to one, I think. Even President Putin was quick to announce the need for Russia to offer,
“the most … professional cooperation with international anti-doping structures”.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, referred to the impact of the Russian findings, and I underline, as I am sure the noble Lord will, that this is not just about Russia cleaning up its practices; it is about all countries, all sports and all athletes not only learning from the commission’s findings but realising that doping in sport, no matter how organised or innocent, will be not tolerated. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, mentioned that coaches and support staff must be properly monitored and censured just as much as sportsmen.
For the IAAF, my noble friend Lord Coe has already announced that its anti-doping systems will be delivered by an independent body. This is similar to the response of cycling, which now has an independent agency to deliver its anti-doping programme.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Moynihan raised the issue of WADA, and I shall revert to it and its tough stance on compliance reporting. In defence of WADA, I point out that it has strengthened its compliance and regulatory functions and as a result last night, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, it declared that six signatory countries were non-compliant with the world anti-doping code: Russia, Andorra, Argentina, Israel, Bolivia and Ukraine. Although this has not been confirmed by WADA, it is reported that Brazil, which is a concern, Belgium, France, Greece, Mexico and Spain have been placed on the watch list. Although this is a concern, decisive action has been taken and should be welcomed.
Criminalising doping in sport was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Thomas, my noble friend Lord Moynihan and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. My noble friend Lord Moynihan mentioned that the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, is looking very seriously at criminalisation. Her investigation will include looking at the experience of other countries, including Italy and France, which already have legislation. They are a minority of countries, but the Minister for Sport will look at this very seriously to see what lessons can be learned and what might be done.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, raised an important point about whistleblowing and asked what greater support could be given. WADA announced in its meeting yesterday that it would enhance its whistleblowing process. This will offer greater protection to anonymous sources who wish to come forward. In the UK we also have UK Anti-Doping’s anonymous Report Doping in Sport hotline, which the noble Lord may know about.
My noble friend Lord Moynihan raised the issue of the chief executive of UKAD and commented on the Sunday Times allegations. I point out to him that an investigation is still going on and the outcome should not be prejudged.
There were a number of other questions, but I have run out of time to answer them. I will finish by saying that the UK’s traditional tough stance on doping is still very much in place, and I am proud to say that the UK’s expertise, knowledge and opinion are regularly called upon worldwide. I am equally proud to say that the UK is not complacent about anti-doping, and continually engages with the international anti-doping community to learn and improve so that we remain in the vanguard of the fight against doping in sport.