Top English football clubs, including Premier League leaders Leicester City, have all angrily denied a newspaper report that a doctor who prescribed performance-enhancing drugs treated their players.
Leicester, defending champions Chelsea and Arsenal were cited in a Sunday Times report in which London-based private doctor Mark Bonar was secretly filmed talking about providing professional athletes with banned substances.
All three clubs have strongly denied the allegations.
“Leicester City Football Club is extremely disappointed that The Sunday Times has published unsubstantiated allegations referring to players from clubs including Leicester City when, on its own admission, it has insufficient evidence to support the claims,” the East Midlands side said in a statement.
Chelsea were equally vehement, saying: “Chelsea Football Club has never used the services of Dr Bonar and has no knowledge or record of any of our players having been treated by him or using his services.”
Fellow London club Arsenal also issued a strident statement, slamming “false claims without foundation” and adding: “We strictly adhere to all guidelines set by the World Anti-Doping Agency and our first-team players participate in approximately 50 random drugs tests during each football season.
“None of our players has ever failed such a test.”
The Sunday Times, which has been at the heart of several doping exposes involving international athletics over the last 12 months, conducted an undercover operation on anti-ageing doctor Bonar.
The 38-year-old medic claims to have had a network of “secret clients”.
The broadsheet said Bonar named athletes from several different sports. Those contacted — but not named — by the paper either denied being treated by him or declined to comment.
The newspaper was quick to add they had no independent evidence that he treated the unnamed players.
– Banned treatments –
Bonar, who was filmed covertly, is heard telling reporters he had also worked with an England cricketer, British Tour de France cyclists, a British boxing champion, tennis players and martial arts competitors.
“In the past six years he has treated more than 150sports people from the UK and abroad variously with banned substances such as erythropoietin (EPO), steroids and human growth hormone, and the sportsperformance improvements were phenomenal,” the report said.
In the newspaper’s footage, Bonar is filmed saying: “Some of these treatments I use are banned on the professional circuit.
“It’s how you do it,” he said, adding: “You want to do it off-cycle or between races.
“The truth of the matter is drugs are in sport.”
UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), the agency responsible for protecting British sport from drug abuse, confirmed they were aware of Bonar two years ago, but said they had no power to investigate him.
UKAD said it interviewed a sportsman in April and May 2014 who, in hoping to reduce his sanction, provided them with more than 100 names, 69 of which related to sport.
UKAD said it could only investigate athletes and their entourage (including medics) who fall under a sporting governing body.
It added that the General Medical Council (GMC), which controls Britain’s register of doctors, could investigate possible medical malpractice but after assessing the information it had, UKAD said it did not believe there were grounds to refer the case.
The GMC said the allegations were serious and it would investigate them “as a matter of urgency”.
– Probe launched –
In response to the expose, Bonar said it was irrelevant that some of his clients were professional athletes.
“If they have proven deficiencies on blood work and are symptomatic, I will treat them,” he said.
“I do not ‘dope’ or treat patients for the sole purpose of performance enhancement even though these treatments may enhance performance as a secondary effect.”
Britain’s sports minister John Whittingdale said he was “shocked” by the allegations and has demanded an urgent independent investigation.
“Sports fans are entitled to be sure that what they are watching is true and fair with all athletes competing on a level playing field,” the culture, media and sportsecretary said in a statement.
“The government is already looking at whether existing legislation in this area goes far enough… If it becomes clear that stronger criminal sanctions are needed then we will not hesitate to act.” – Agence France-Presse