Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum from the Professional Rugby Players Association

  The Professional Rugby Players Association (PRA) is a member of The Institute of Professional Sport which is the association of professional player associations and as such is the representative body for paid sports men and women in the country. We have been asked to submit a contribution on the issue of drug testing and apologise for the lateness of our submission but hope our small but important contribution can be circulated to members of your committee.

  We have discussed the need for an independent anti-doping agency on several occasions and have reached the firm conclusion that we fully support such a proposal. Our national anti-doping agency needs to be separate from any funding sources—be it Government or clubs—to avoid both conflicts of interest and for the integrity and wellbeing of all sports. The membership is also supportive of proposals to create an independent disciplinary agency which in itself should be separate from the testing agency.

  There is a clear potential conflict of interest when funding agencies and the anti-doping agencies work in concert. Our members have had difficulties when the names of players have been released to the media before the agreed process for testing has been completed. Without such confidentiality the careers and reputations of athletes can unjustifiably be tarnished. Furthermore such coverage prejudices the hearing before the case has been heard. Such an independence we are suggesting will restore the confidence of players in any new anti-doping agency.

  Your committee will recognise that drug testing can be a very invasive procedure and can highlight confidential medical issues. It is for this reason that confidentiality must be respected until due process has been completed.

  In addition there may be instances when confidentiality is required to help the rehabilitation of the athlete. For example alcohol and drug rehabilitation cases could be undermined by intense tabloid scrutiny. There is a view that sports have a "duty of care" to help rehabilitate sportsmen with such problems.

  Whilst the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has drawn up a list of banned substances that should in theory apply across all sports it will require a period of time before the international federations are able to apply the rules with the same uniformity. Within that context there is a need in anti-doping for:

    —  independence

    —  accountability

    —  fairness

  In the interests of the athletes of all sports— paid and unpaid—and the wider public we support the need for an independent system for handling anti-doping in sport. Something that must be separated from the current arrangements.

  Such a measure for an independent agency would bring the UK into line with emerging best practice as exists in the world and strengthen our resolve to rid sport of performance enhancing drugs.

  We understand this was the view concluded by Dr Roger Jackson as Vice Chairman of the Canadian Anti-Doping agency in the unpublished review he carried out for UK Sport in May 2001.

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