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The effects of providing substantial assistance in doping investigations: A review of the Bernice Wilson case

The effects of providing substantial assistance in doping investigations: A review of the Bernice Wilson case
Friday, 09 September 2016 By Mark Hovell

On 22 February 2016, the National Anti-Doping Panel (“NADP”) banned Dr Georgios Skafidas for life1 for the offences of administration and trafficking, pursuant to the UK Athletics Anti-Doping Rules.

UK Anti-Doping (“UKAD”) were assisted in their case against Dr Skafidas by one of the athletes he coached, Ms Bernice Wilson. She had been a victim of his administration of many prohibited substances, namely testosterone, clenbuterol, stanozolol, ephedrine and clomiphene. The NADP cited a telling extract from Dr Skafidas’ statement given to UKAD:

I ruined her career and not only, her life.

Ms Wilson, born in 1984, was a successful sprinter who participated at her first English Schools finals at aged 13; going on to win both the 100 and 200 metres finals at the 2010 English Athletics Championships.2 She competed at international level and represented Great Britain at the 2010 Indoor European Championships. She was coached at this time by Dr Skafidas, pursuant to his coaching licence that he received from UK Athletics, having been coaching athletes since 1991.

However, on 12 June 2011, she tested positive after competing at the Bedford International games. Eventually, she was banned for 4 years from 9 July 2011 after she tested positive for the anabolic steroid testosterone and the sympathomimetic amine clenbuterol. Dr Skafidas represented her at her hearing with UKAD. The Panel took into account various aggravating features and increased the sanction from the then standard 2 years ineligibility. Ms Wilson’s appeal failed, so she served the 4-year ban.

As a condition of her sanction, she was required to be subject to testing during the period of ineligibility and was tested at her home on 12 February 2015. The sample test revealed the presence of clomiphene, which is classified as a hormone and metabolic modulator under the 2015 WADA Prohibited List.

UKAD charged her with an anti-doping rule violation (an “ADRV”). However, Dr Skafidas intercepted the charge letter and hid it from Ms Wilson. After UKAD sent a second charge letter to Ms Wilson, which she received, she was interviewed by UKAD. She initially stated that the ADRV must have been due to a contaminated supplement, but on advice from the author’s colleague, Walter Nicholls, who took Ms Wilson’s case on pro bono, she admitted that Dr Skafides had given her the tablets that contained clomiphene. This had been done without her knowledge. She told of the pressure he put her under and explained that she suffered domestic abuse at his hands.

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Mark Hovell

Mark Hovell

Mark is a partner and the head of the sports team at Mills & Reeve LLP.

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