Interview with Graham Arthur Director of Legal at UK Anti-Doping (UKAD)

Published 14 April 2011 By: Sean Cottrell

Doping is a huge problem facing sport. Banned substances and means of delivery are becoming more sophisticated and with the ever increasing infiltration of organised crime in sport, anti-doping agencies and law enforcement agencies are having to work together to sustain the momentum in the fight against cheats in sport.

Recently, met with Graham Arthur, Director of Legal at UK Anti-Doping at the Tackling Doping in Sport 2011 Conference to find out his views on a range of topics, from Out-of-Competition testing to the challenges that come with hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games. UK Anti-Doping was established in 2009 andis the national body responsible for the implementation and management of the UK’s anti-doping policy.

Graham originally started out in private practice and was formerly outside counsel for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) providing support on classification and anti-doping matters. He has assisted with all the recent IPC events from Athens to Vancouver.

LIS: What did you think of the Tackling Doping in Sport conference?

GA: The mix of representatives from anti-doping organisations, international federations, and national organisations was really helpful. I thought the quality of the scientific presentations was very thorough, clear and accessible for what are quite in-depth issues. For example, the presentation on blood doping [banned technique used to increase the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity] demonstrated that it is feasible, but it requires the co-operation of an infrastructure of medical personnel, and can be picked up by sports and anti-doping organisations so ultimately you would expect people to get caught doing it. One of the more sobering messages was however that there are sophisticated and expensive techniques available to deal with doping. 

LIS: What advice do you have for other less supported anti-doping agencies? 

GA: I would say do what you can, when you can. The strategy is to make doping harder and more risky. If we can’t get rid of doping, then we want doping to be expensive, to be risky, to be stressful for the people involved, because the harder and more unpalatable it becomes, the less people are going to want to do it. 

LIS: How does your current role differ from your previous roles within private practice and the IPC?

GA: It is a very vibrant and interesting role, which is what appealed about it as there is a lot to it, including dealing on behalf of the government with the Council for Europe and UNESCO. I am very lucky to have a great team who do a great job and make my job a lot easier than it otherwise would be. 

LIS: What do you get the most satisfaction from in your job?

GA: I guess we get the most satisfaction from making sure the athlete gets fair treatment and that includes athletes who cheat and get two years (suspension). They get fair treatment as they have an opportunity to explain their case and their side of the story to a panel. 

LIS: Do you think this approach has strengthened your relationship with athletes?

GA: Well, I think it strengthens the relationship with sport because we are an independent body, which has been a really big plus. We should be seen to be fair and even-handed by sport and I think we are, by the sports we are engaged with, thus far. 

LIS: Why do you think this is?

GA: I can give you a short example why. We had a finding involving a Scottish Footballer at the end of January. When that happens we get the charge out straight away to get the clock running. The athlete or his representative or lawyer weren’t familiar with anti-doping practice. So my colleagues here spent a lot of time on the phone to the athlete, his representative and his lawyer telling them what they needed to do. The priority was to identify how the prohibited substance got into the athlete’s system.

We want to work with athletes and we drive that proactively here to make sure all the athletes we engage with get the fairest outcome possible. Athletes that choose to dope may opt for a hearing and we aim to get one set-up in a timely manner to give them the opportunity to explain their case to an independent panel. It’s a different treatment but the interest of the athletes is paramount. 

LIS: An athlete has to give an hour window each day to inform you when they are available for Out-of-Competition testing. We have heard that a cheating athlete could deploy methods to avoid detection, as they know when they could be asked for a sample. What is your opinion on how much impact this is having on sport and could things be improved?

GA: I think you have to be realistic about what you can do with your resources and that is your start point. Rather than saying, “if you could make up your ideal rules what would your ideal rules be,” you start with that which you can implement. What we try to do, which reflects what most anti-doping organisations do, is to plan our Out-of-Competition testing which gives us the maximum opportunity to recover a sample.

The whereabouts scheme is a two-way street. It gives the anti-doping organisation a tool to carry out its anti-doping programmes, but also gives the athlete a tool to demonstrate compliance. Not all athletes see it that way, some see it as onerous and burdensome, but we have excellent support in place for athletes; we work very closely with sports who support their athletes and we have a dedicated athlete support officer who works closely with all those athletes to ensure they understand what to and how to make it work for them.. 

LIS: How important do you think testing is to help provide validity to the clean athletes?

GA: Testing athletes has a number of objectives – to catch those that are doping, to deter those that might be thinking about it and to prove that an athlete is clean. If you go and watch a cycling event, for example, and say, “how do we know our UK cyclists are clean? How do we know that?” The reason you know is because all our cyclists partake in Out-of-Competition testing and in an athlete blood passport scheme. They are willing to take those steps to reassure other participants in the sport, and the paying public, that what they are watching is real. It is so important that athletes commit to being tested, demonstrating they are participating in a clean sport. This is as much in their interest as it is in the interest of the anti-doping organisations. If they can’t demonstrate by their actions they are clean, they lose the buy-in of their public.

LIS: With the Games coming up in the next year what is the biggest challenge you face?

GA: The 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics is a great opportunity for us, we have good relationships with the organisation committee, great relationships with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee and being the agency we are, we have formalised relationships with the UK Border Agency, Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and with the Serious Organised Crime Agency. What the Games give us is an opportunity to develop a broad reaching anti-doping policy that goes well beyond the urine and blood random in-and- out-of-competition tests that are the traditional bread and butter of an anti-doping agency. The Games give us an opportunity to have a great platform to work with partners and to develop a comprehensive anti-doping strategy to support a clean event. 

LIS: I guess in one way it will be a legacy of the Games. 

GA: Yes it is. It will provide a model for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and an exportable model for other major events as we go on to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. It gives us a sustainable model so event organisers can say what can be done to ensure a clean event. That legacy Hugh [Robertson, Olympics and Sport Minister and speaker at Tackling Doping in Sport] was talking about, it is a great legacy to contribute to.

Interview conducted by Sean Cottrell, Editor of For further information about the work of UK Anti-Doping please visit


Sean Cottrell

Sean Cottrell

Sean is the founder and CEO of LawInSport. Founded in 2010, LawInSport has become the "go to sports law website" for sports lawyers and sports executives across the world.

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