Athletics Weekly (AW) has raised concerns that many of the annual UK road races are not carrying out sufficient drug tests on competitors. Road races are popular among both amateur and professional runners and many off cash prizes to the winners. A lack of drug testing means that athletes are possibly abusing the rules to gain an unfair competitive advantage and subsequently claim the big cash prizes.
Athletics Weekly, which is the UK’s leading magazine and website dedicated to running, cycling and athletics, has claimed in a report published in January that the “dearth of drugs testing on Britain’s roads could mean thousands of pounds worth of prizes going to cheats”.
AW spoke with elite runners and road race organisers and found that with the exception of the eight, high-class “IAAF Label” events in the UK, all others have virtually no drug testing policy in place. In short, there is a severe lack of drug testing in UK road races.
The investigation was conducted following the news that eight athletes who generally do not have to do any out-of-competition testing because they are not of a high enough standard were suspected of doping in a series of big-money road racing events around the world.
There are only eight events in the UK (such as Virgin Money London Marathon and Great North Run) that work with the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) to ensure that competition winners are testing. However, there are hundreds of road racing events around the Uk every year.
Several top athletes, including Alyson Dixon, Paul Martelletti, Phil Wicks and Charlotte Purdue, told Athletics Weekly that they had not been tested in UK road races that were not overseen by the IAAF.
Nigel Jones, the race organiser of the Admiral Swansea Bay 10km, was asked to disclose their testing history and he stated that it had been at least 12 years since any drug testers visited the race. The race has a top prize of £600 plus some huge time bonuses; twice they have given away a £25,000 car for the fastest times.
Nigel Jones told AW: “There’s some useful money that people have won down here and I’ve not had a phone call (from doping officials) for years and years. I know they can just turn up on spec. If they do I’ve always got a room set aside where they can do it, but I’ve not had a sniff on anything. This is my 30th year as race director but it’s only ever happened to us twice in that entire time I think.”
It is feared that the same is happening all over the UK and that some athletes are keeping themselves under the drug testing radar by only competing in events that are almost never visited by UK Anti-Doping. Many runners may be unfairly earning significant money in winnings while honest runners are left behind.
The big question is, how can an organisation that stretch itself to test at every event in the UK? Each year there are hundreds of marathons, half-marathons, 10 mile runs and other events that take place in towns and villages around the country. Organisers usually rely on volunteers and donations from local sponsors to help pay for the events and have no means to establish drug tests for all runners.