UK Anti-doping Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st April 2016.

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Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I have no plans to reform UK Anti-Doping, but following The Sunday Times allegations, an independent review has been launched into UK Anti-Doping’s handling of the information that it received. It is important that we allow that review to conclude before considering what action must be taken.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Scottish National Party, Paisley and Renfrewshire North

Last week, the Prime Minister suggested that doping in sport could be criminalised in the UK. Has the Secretary of State had any discussions with other Departments about the criminalisation of doping in sport?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It is a matter that we are considering very actively. The allegations that were printed in The Sunday Times suggesting that doping may be taking place among UK sportsmen are very serious and something that we want to examine very carefully, but also urgently. If it becomes clear as a result of that that further action needs to be taken—possibly including the criminalisation of doping in sport—we will not hesitate to act.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

Does the Minister agree that we should be leading the way on anti-doping? Does he also agree that sportsmen and sportswomen have a responsibility to be honest and clean, particularly as they inspire so many young people? What is his Department doing to work alongside the agency to promote clean sport and to inspire our young people?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman: it is absolutely essential that sport is seen to be clean. That is something for which we in this country have, until now, had a very good reputation, and I hope that we will still have a good reputation. We are talking to all the UK sports bodies, and we intend to draw up proposals, which I hope all of them will adopt. Beyond that, we are taking a lead internationally. The Prime Minister is holding an anti-corruption summit next month, and this is one of the issues that will be discussed.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

The Prime Minister said that his forthcoming anti-corruption summit will consider whether doping in sport should be made a criminal offence, but before anyone can be convicted, we have to have an effective testing regime in place. Despite the billions that go into sport through TV rights and sponsorship, precious little money is going to fund research into sports science, which would keep us ahead of the cheats. Will the Secretary of State join me in calling on the Prime Minister to discuss research funding at his summit, with the aim of setting up a funding body that is independent of sports governing bodies, so that we can have effective testing in place and stay ahead of the cheats?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I agree that this is a very important matter, which is why the Government invest more than £5 million per annum in UK Anti-Doping; and by the end of this Parliament that sum will have gone up to £5.4 million. National governing bodies of sport are doing quite a lot. For instance, I visited the British Horseracing Authority recently to hear about the work it has been doing to ensure that its sport remains clean. Other sports are also investing in this area. Of course, there is more that we can do, and I certainly join the hon. Gentleman in urging the national governing bodies of all our sports to give the issue the serious attention it deserves and to invest more if required.