UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has been strongly criticised in an independent report today for its failure to alert the General Medical Council (GMC) about claims that a Harley Street doctor had helped over 150 sportspeople take performance enhancing drugs.
This followed reports in April that Dr Mark Bonar worked with "clients" including an England cricketer, British Tour de France cyclists, a British boxing champion, tennis players and martial arts competitors, as well as footballers from Premier League clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City.
UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead confirmed they had been aware of allegations against Bonar after being approached by cyclist Dan Stevens, but had not been able to act upon them because the doctor was not affiliated to any particular sport.
They had also considered informing the General Medical Council (GMC), which oversees medical practitioners in Britain, but decided not to as the evidence they had was supposedly insufficient for such a referral.
A report spearheaded by retired police officer Andy Ward found it was "difficult to understand" why UKAD had not "as a minimum standard of investigation" spoken to the GMC.
"The Review believes that as a minimum standard of investigation a simple check with Bonar’s governing body, the GMC, should have been undertaken to establish whether any other intelligence may exist to support or negate the allegations made by the athlete," the report published today concluded.
"It is difficult to understand why no contact was in fact made with the GMC when that course of action was suggested on at least seven occasions, either by members of UKAD or by the athlete and his legal representatives, throughout 2014."
No conclusive evidence has been found to support the claims of Bonar, made during a secret recording and denied afterwards, although the report claims more could have been done to investigate the allegations.
Questions are also raised as to why UKAD refused a request made by whistleblower Stevens - who had been banned for refusing to provide a sample - to have his suspension reduced due to the evidence he had provided.
He was told that his testimony did not constitute "substantial assistance".
"Whilst recognising that it is a very 'subjective decision; whether any information supplied by a participant falls within the definition of ‘substantial assistance’, the review would argue that in this case the decision determined by UKAD is particularly harsh and could understandably be seen as unfair," the report adds.
"Without doubt the source identifies another athlete to UKAD who is then prioritised for testing as part of an operation."
The review recommends a review of the way whistleblowers are treated, adding that current policies are "unclear and confusing".
“It is clear to us that opportunities to gather intelligence, secure evidence and investigate Bonar have been missed," Ward added in a statement today.
"All members of UKAD have displayed complete transparency and are quite clearly motivated to support the organisation and take clear pride in their role of protecting clean sport.”
Despite this latter verdict, the report still comes as a blow to UKAD as it seeks to consolidate its status as one of the world's leading national anti-doping bodies.
The organisation is currently working with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to help with testing procedures in the world's largest nation.
UKAD chairman David Kenworthy has admitted that they made "ghastly" mistakes.
"Frankly, I still do not know why we didn't [tell the GMC] - we certainly talked about it," he told the Press Association.
"It was a ghastly mistake and it should never have happened - nobody is disputing that.
"But I have worked for four police forces and chaired two national charities, so I know everybody makes mistakes but that is how you learn.
"I also know UKAD is still the best anti-doping organisation in the world.
"It's why the World Anti-Doping Agency asked us to pick up the pieces in Russia, why we're providing know-how on intelligence-led testing at the Rio Olympics, why Japan is knocking on our door for advice on the next Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics and why Kenya wants our help, too."
The full report can be read here.