Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 316-319)


12 DECEMBER 2006

  Q316 Chairman: Good morning. I do understand, Minister, that you are on a very tight schedule. We are greatly appreciative of the fact that you have fitted us into your schedule. Human Enhancement Technologies in Sport, ahead of the Olympics, has been an interesting inquiry. A number of the recommendations which we are coming towards clearly need an input from you as the Minister and it would have been wrong not to have had that before doing the heads of report and completing the work. One of the areas that has arisen is the conflict between the role of UK Sport and the fact that the anti-doping programme is co-located within the same organisation as one which has the job of promoting UK athletics and, indeed, awarding grants. Do you feel there is a conflict of interest there, Minister?

  Mr Caborn: No, not at all. Before we start, could I just say thank you very much for inviting me. Secondly, can I say, genuinely, that the fact that you are having this inquiry shows how importantly we take this subject of anti-doping and the whole role of WADA. It is very important that we look towards the back end of next year, when WADA will be having the international conference. I am sure that what you are going to be putting in your report will have some influence on that. I say that very genuinely because I, as the sports minister on behalf of Government, know that Parliament itself takes this issue seriously. Again, I think your inquiry underpins that. For an institution that has been there for only seven years, WADA has come a long, long way and the fact that you are doing what you are doing will continue to enhance that and hopefully will give some directions to the decisions that are going to come out of Madrid in the back end of 2007. Going back to the question that you asked, we had an independent report on UK Sport and the role in anti-doping and it found very, very clearly that there was a synergy between the two and it was the right place in which to have the whole anti-doping agency or services. Indeed, the previous Select Committee report also concurred with that. We have had a long debate about it and we believe it is the best. We do not believe there are any conflicts there. We have set up all the recommendations that came out of the report on UK Sport that was, again, put out into the public domain. It was debated by many and we believe we have a very robust system in place. I will say, Mr Willis, that probably UK Sport is the leading organisation, which is looked to around the world in many of the innovations in this area.

  Q317  Chairman: Why do you think the British Olympic Association said to us: "The fact that the UK's anti-doping programme is co-located within the same organisation which has he responsibility for the elite sort funding programme continues to be a contentious issue" and UK Athletics said, "It is difficult to have your educational supporting body being your prosecuting body"? Indeed, having been to Australia, ASADA was set up to separate the two functions and in the United States the US Anti-doping Authority (USADA) was set up to separate the two functions. Why are you so sure that we have got it right?

  Mr Caborn: Because, as I say, people make those statements but what is the evidence? What is the evidence that BOA is bringing, what is the evidence that UK Athletics is bringing? I say interrogate the evidence—we have, you have, the select committees of this House have. We had an independent report, we put it out for public debate and nobody has come forward and said that there is any contamination there. There is not. I just say to people, "Put the evidence towards me." I have asked the BOA to put the evidence: it is not there. I have asked UK Athletics: I have asked Steve Cram; I have asked Paula Radcliffe. Both of those wrote recently and I wrote to them both. Unfortunately neither of them has responded to me but I have said to them: "Give me the evidence. We will interrogate it."

  Q318  Chairman: Is perception not important, Minister?

  Mr Caborn: I think perception is important. I would say that UK Sport and the role that they play in this area is second to none and, indeed, leads the world. That comes about because of the relationships within UK Sport. In terms of them running the anti-doping agency, there are Chinese walls there, as recommended in the consultants report. We have done that. I think that is absolutely watertight now. You do then get the development of the 100% Me programme and the development we are doing in a number of other areas, and it is that type of synergy that allows us to lead the world in terms of what we are doing as a sports organisation in this particular field. I say to any of those organisations you have quoted, "Please give me the evidence. I will interrogate it. We will do it in a public way." It is not in my interests or, indeed, in the Government's interest or any sport's interest to have that question if there is evidence there.

  Q319  Chairman: Arguably the two strongest sporting nations in the world, the United States and Australia, have come to those conclusions and we have got it right and they have got it wrong.

  Mr Caborn: I think the Australians go a little further. In terms of America, I am very, very pleased to see what has been happening in the US in the recent past but they came off from a different place from the one we came off and you have to judge against the circumstances of that particular nation. The US have had some real difficulties, both internally and also with some of their governing bodies. We have seen what happened on the designer drugs and the development there. They come at it from a different perspective of what happened. In terms of Australia, you are moving not just inside their organisation but on whether you are using the WADA code to police the social aspects of life as well. I take a very clear view that WADA is there to root out cheats in sport. Their core business is to stop using drugs to enhance performance. That is their job. If society wants a wider issue on the use of drugs, that is fine. If somebody is found to be using illegal substances and that conflicts with the WADA code, we will judge that: Has that been performance enhancing? If it is an illegal act, then there is a criminal law that will deal with that. We are not in the business of policing society. We are in the business of rooting out cheats in sport. That is what WADA's core function is about. What we have here, both in terms of how we have framed our laws and how we operate through UK Sport, does that in a very effective way.

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