British doctor has been secretly filmed allegedly describing how he prescribed banned performance-enhancing drugs to 150 elite sportspeople, including Premier League footballers.
Britain's Sunday Times newspaper has reported that Mark Bonar allegedly charged sports stars thousands of dollars for illicit drug programmes.
The UK government has ordered an inquiry into the taxpayer-funded UK Anti-Doping Agency (Ukad), which the Sunday Times said was given evidence about the doctor's activities two years ago, but failed to take any action.
Dr Bonar is based at a private London clinic, and told Sunday Times undercover reporters he had doped soccer players from a number of Premier League teams, as well a number of other sportspeople.
There was no suggestion that any Premier League clubs were aware of any alleged wrongdoing and the Sunday Times said it had no independent evidence Bonar treated the players.
Dr Bonar has told the Sunday Times he treated the athletes for medical reasons and not to enhance their performance. There was no suggestion the substances were illegal.
Athletes contacted by the newspaper either denied Dr Bonar had treated them or declined to comment.
The government investigation stemmed from claims made by a whistleblower athlete.
According to the newspaper, the sportsperson - who wished to remain anonymous - approached Ukad with evidence that indicated Dr Bonar had allegedly prescribed them performance-enhancing drugs.
Ukad said it did begin an investigation into Dr Bonar but found that he was outside of its jurisdiction as he was not governed by a sport, and decided not to pass the case to the General Medical Council (GMC) or to contact him.
The Sunday Times - in collaboration with an aspiring athlete - then secretly recorded Dr Bonar allegedly prescribing a series of prohibited drugs to the runner. It has claimed that Dr Bonar then went on to talk about the other sportspeople he said he treated.
Ukad told the BBC it would conduct an independent review into the case.
'No room for complacency'
"I am shocked and deeply concerned by these allegations," Culture, Media and Sport Secretary John Whittingdale said in a statement.
"I have asked for there to be an urgent independent investigation into what action was taken when these allegations were first received and what more needs to be done to ensure that British sport remains clean.
"There is no room for complacency in the fight against doping and the government is already looking at whether existing legislation in this area goes far enough. If it becomes clear that stronger criminal sanctions are needed then we will not hesitate to act."
In response to the Sunday Times article, Ukad chief executive Nicole Sapstead said the organisation was "deeply concerned and shocked by the allegations".
Ukad's statement also said it had:
- Used the 'National Intelligence Model' to assess all information that comes into its possession, "to avoid possible vexatious and spurious accusations".
- Been obliged to follow current legislation that gives Ukad power "only to investigate athletes and entourage (including medics) who are themselves governed by a sport".
- Commenced an investigation into Dr Bonar following interviews with a sportsperson in April and May 2014. Ukad subsequently found there was nothing to indicate Bonar was governed by a sport.
- Encouraged the sportsperson to "obtain evidence, to go through his files to see if he had any useful documents, to recall names, to keep in touch with investigators - anything which may be deemed as helpful to the investigation and could help to corroborate what had been said in his interviews".
- Recommended to the sportsperson that more information was needed and as Dr Bonar fell outside of Ukad's jurisdiction, that information could be passed, if appropriate, to the General Medical Council.
- Received handwritten prescriptions in October 2014 which the sportsperson claimed to have been issued by Dr Bonar. After assessing the evidence with an independent expert, Ukad "did not believe that there were grounds, at that point, to refer the case to the GMC".