English football has been rocked by its first major doping scandal.
According to reports by the Sunday Times, Dr. Mark Bonar has revealed that he has provided over 150 athletes with performance enhancing drugs, including footballers from Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester City and Birmingham City.
The players have not been named, and each of the clubs has issued a statement strongly denying the claims by Bonar.
Chelsea pulled no punches with their denial, going for rather forceful words:
The claims are false and entirely without foundation. Chelsea football club has never used the services of Bonar and has no knowledge or record of any of our players having been treated by him or having used his services. We take the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sport extremely seriously and comply fully with all anti-doping rules and regulations. Chelsea FC players are regularly and rigorously tested by the relevant authorities.
Arsenal were equally quick of the mark to issue a denial:
Arsenal Football Club is extremely disappointed by the publication of these false claims which are without foundation. The Sunday Times knows that these allegations are baseless but has preferred to publish regardless.
The club takes its responsibilities in this area very seriously and our players are well aware of what is expected.
We strictly adhere to all guidelines set by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
According to the report, Bonar – a 38-year-old private doctor who works out of a London clinic – was paid thousands for performance enhancing drugs such as erythropoietin (EPO), steroids and human growth hormone.
He also allegedly provided cyclists, an England cricket player, and a boxing world champion with drugs.
Cycling has a new doping scandal seemingly every week, and boxing has had it’s name tarnished in the past (former British champion Kid Galahad is currently serving a ban for steroid abuse), but this is new for football and cricket.
Currently, only one player is serving a football ban for drug abuse – former Partick Thistle player Jordan McMillan, who took cocaine and was banned by UKAD (United Kingdom Anti-Doping).
UKAD have also issued a lengthy statement today, thanking the Sunday Times for it’s investigative journalism and promising to investigate the allegations wholly.
However, despite the claims undoubtedly threatening to damage football significantly, the Times also included this potentially pivotal line in their article:
The Sunday Times has no independent evidence Bonar treated the players.
So basically, the paper has acted on what Bonar has been recorded saying in an undercover meeting between himself and an unnamed aspiring athlete.
This could also be bad news for UKAD, who are now the subject of an official inquiry ordered by culture secretary John Whittingdale, after they were given evidence about the doctor’s doping activities two years ago, but failed to act upon them.
Football is still rocking from the FIFA scandal, it really doesn’t need all this.