EPL clubs reject claims tying players to rogue doctor

LONDON • Premier League football clubs, including league leaders Leicester City, have all angrily denied a newspaper report that a doctor who prescribed performance-enhancing drugs treated their players.

Leicester, 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 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."

  • Network of secret "clients"

  • British doctor Mark Bonar claims he has prescribed banned performance- enhancing drugs to 150 elite sportsmen. They include:

    • Footballers from Premier League clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, and Leicester City

    • An England cricketer

    • British Tour de France cyclists

    • A British boxing champion

    • Tennis players

    • Martial arts competitors

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 drug 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 claims to have had a network of "secret clients".

The broadsheet said he 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 it had no independent evidence that he treated the unnamed players.

In the film, Bonar is heard telling reporters he had 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 150 sports people from the UK and abroad variously with banned substances such as erythropoietin, steroids and human growth hormone, and the sports performance improvements were phenomenal," the report said.

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 it was aware of Bonar two years ago, but said it 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 it with more than 100 names, 69 of which related to sport.

The agency said it could only investigate athletes and their entourage (including medics) who fall under a sporting governing body. It added the General Medical Council (GMC), which controls Britain's register of doctors, could investigate possible medical malpractice. 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".

Britain's Sports Minister John Whittingdale said he was "shocked" by the allegations and has demanded an urgent independent investigation.

"The government is already looking at whether existing legislation in this area goes far enough," the Culture, Media and Sport secretary said. "If it becomes clear that stronger criminal sanctions are needed then we will not hesitate to act."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'EPL clubs reject claims tying players to rogue doctor'. Print Edition | Subscribe