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Sport: Governance Standards - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:49 pm on 3rd May 2016.

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Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Labour 2:49 pm, 3rd May 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the current and long-term crises in the governance of a number of sports, including allegations of corruption and doping, whether they intend to introduce legislation to establish standards by which sports governing bodies should conduct their affairs in order to restore public confidence in the fairness and efficacy of competition.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government have been concerned by recent sporting scandals. We are currently reviewing existing anti-doping legislation which will assess whether stronger criminal sanctions are necessary. The findings of the independent review into UK Anti-Doping’s processes, following recent Sunday Times allegations, will be considered as part of the process. Sports bodies must adhere to the highest standards of governance and the Government will introduce a new governance code for sport in the UK later this year.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Labour

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. As an avid Spurs supporter, I congratulate Leicester City on a quite remarkable achievement—

Hear, hear.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Labour

—not entirely through gritted teeth. I mean it. Every sports fan wants to know that the fight is not fixed; that the athletes are competing with one another and not with some chemistry lab; and that when you bid for international tournaments the decision will be taken not on the basis of bribery but on merit. Governing bodies have promised ethical codes, action and transparency for decades and the truth is that they have never delivered. They always say they will do it and in fact they never do. They have probably drunk in the last chance saloon more times than any of the rest of us. Will the Government draw the only realistic conclusion in the forthcoming proposed legislation and set out the ground rules for acceptable conduct in law? Will the sports governing bodies have their legitimacy affirmed only if they agree to follow these rules, which the rest of us are expected to?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, is correct in so much of what he says. The level playing field is so important for all sports and competing at all levels—not just elite level but grass-roots level. The noble Lord refers to the review, which will take all these matters into account with regard to criminalisation before it reports. It will report only once it is ready and the job is done properly. The governance code is part of the sport strategy, which will look at match-fixing and anti-doping, for example, and will cover a wide range of matters.

Photo of Lord Higgins Lord Higgins Conservative

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that muscles built up by taking drugs enhance performance for an indefinite period, and short-term bans on cheats are therefore not effective? We must move towards bans for life, which ought not to be inhibited by considerations of human rights law, employment law or whatever.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, my noble friend is right that cheating in sport is desperately unfair on everybody else who takes part. Under the existing legislation—the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Medicines Act—the maximum sentence is 14 years, including for those who supply the drugs. The new code, consistent with WADA, which came into force in January 2015, gives an automatic ban of four years to cheats and support staff. Of course, once somebody is found guilty, all funding stops.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, will the Government ensure that gambling cheating is brought up to the same level of intensity as doping and everything else? Will they also make sure that the athlete is made aware that if they take a bribe, they could be controlled for life and lose their livelihood?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Match-fixing is a problem that should be taken in the same context as athletes gaining an unfair advantage through performance-enhancing drugs. The sport strategy is looking at match-fixing as well as doping. We must also remember that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is holding the Anti-Corruption Summit next week and sport will be on the agenda.

Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench

My Lords, I declare an interest as I am currently doing some work for the Minister for Sport on duty of care for sports participants. Recent cases of the use of performance-enhancing drugs have come to light because the athletes have disclosed what they are using, or there has been a fallout among the manufacturers. The testing seems to fall far behind the prohibited list. What support or protection can Her Majesty’s Government give to those who have vital information who want to blow the whistle and expose drugs cheats?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. Particularly given her experience of sports administration, one should listen very carefully to what she has to say. Sports governing bodies are taking all these aspects into account, and they must establish methods and systems so that whistleblowers can carry out their role.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

Does the noble Earl agree that my noble friend Lord Triesman deserves an apology from the relevant authorities, because he was right when it was not politic to be right about corruption? What efforts will the Government make to ensure greater transparency when there are major decisions to be taken on the location of events?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I think the noble Lord is referring to matters that happened just over a year ago, particularly in relation to FIFA. At that point, I said in this place that accountability and clarity in these sports bodies were of absolutely paramount importance.

Photo of Baroness Heyhoe Flint Baroness Heyhoe Flint Conservative

My Lords, is it not possible to divorce the testers of this corruption entirely from the governing bodies, whether they are national governing bodies or bodies such as FIFA? Can the Government also suggest a way in which they could add resources to the governing bodies, which are extremely stretched at the moment in self-policing this major problem, in order to drive out this corruption and cheating?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My noble friend Lady Heyhoe Flint makes important points. Testing has to keep up with the activity of cheats in sport. Testing will be down to UKAD working in conjunction with the sporting bodies.

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, may I come back to the question just asked, because is that not the root of the problem? We are absolutely clear that the casualties here are clean sportspeople, but the only people who can investigate the problem are funded by the sports governing bodies, which have a responsibility for rooting out the malfeasance in the first place. The Minister must come up with a better answer than that.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am not 100% sure where the noble Lord is going, but the testing is carried out by UKAD, which has one of the best names in international sport. I know there have been questions as far as the Sunday Times is concerned, but we will have to wait for the review put forward by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. UKAD has a very good name and performs a very good job but as far as testing is concerned, it also has to keep up with the different drugs these cheats take.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Conservative

My Lords, sports men and women come from all parts of the United Kingdom; many of them proudly represent the United Kingdom. Would my noble friend the Minister think it helpful, within the proposed changes, to discuss with the devolved legislatures what contribution they might make to the process of improving regulation?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. I might need to write to her with a little more information but, as far as I am aware, UKAD will be in touch with all devolved bodies concerning its work.

Photo of The Duke of Montrose The Duke of Montrose Conservative

My Lords, is the Minister aware that Andy Murray has suggested that sportspeople should consider publishing all the results of their tests? Can the Government offer any support on this?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My noble friend makes a very good point on publishing the results of drug tests. As he can probably guess, I do not have an answer in my folder so I will write to him.