The British cyclist at the centre of an investigation into Harley Street ‘doping doctor’ Mark Bonar has said he thinks that doping is endemic within British cycling culture, and outlined how he was prescribed banned substances.
Dan Stevens was speaking to the Culture, Media and Sport committee hearing on Tuesday into doping in athletics after an undercover investigation run by the Sunday Times revealed Bonar’s claims that he doped 150 sport stars.
Stevens approached the Sunday Times with a tip-off about Bonar after he gave evidence about Bonar’s activities to UK Anti-Doping (UKAD). Jonathan Calvert of the Sunday Times Insight team was also giving evidence at the hearing.
Stevens and Calvert were asked a string of questions by MPs relating to doping in cycling, Dr Bonar’s practices and the wider use of banned substances in other sports.
Bonar prescribed testosterone, EPO and HGH
Stevens said that he first visited Bonar after being diagnosed with low testosterone levels by a British Cycling doctor. Stevens found Bonar’s name via an internet search.
Bonar initially prescribed testosterone to Stevens, and then human growth hormone, EPO and thyroxine. Stevens told the hearing that he was ‘manipulated’ by Bonar into taking the banned drugs when he visited him over the period of a year.
Stevens was banned from competition for 21 months for failing to provide a sample for an out-of-competition anti-doping test on January 29, 2014. His suspension was cut from 24 to 21 months by UKAD after Stevens provided “valuable anti-doping information” to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC). His ban expired on November 1 2015.
Stevens said that he used testosterone and EPO over period of three months, and said that he saw “huge effects” to improve his performance.
When asked by the committee how much of a gain Stevens had achieved, he said: “15 to 20 per cent performance gain.”
“I train with power, so it was quite easy to see the gains. I saw an increase of probably 60 or 70 watts at my threshold power, which was massive.”
When asked whether he had any side effects of taking the substances, Stevens said: “No, no side effects”.
Stevens: doping is endemic
Outside his own experiences with doping and Bonar, Stevens was asked about how widespread he though that doping was in cycling in the UK, and whether enough was being done to catch the cheats.
“I can’t comment how much doping is going on [in amateur cycling] because I don’t know factually, but what I can say is that there’s not a lot of testing going on,” said Stevens. “And when testing is happening the athletes are being given advance notice that they are going to be tested.”
“It’s very clear there are a lot of people doping, it’s very clear there aren’t the resources to catch everyone. Do we carry on it’s pretending it’s going on, or not going on. So what do we do?”
“We’re a long way behind what athletes are using at elite level, at amateur level they are potentially using what the elites did 15 years ago.”
Stevens also said that he did not think that Bonar was alone as a doctor prescribing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes. “He isn’t an isolated case, there are a number of doctors doing the same thing.”
Watch: Cycling Weekly doping debate highlights
UKAD ‘ignored evidence’ of Bonar’s activities
Part of Stevens’s statements were related to the intelligence that he gave to UKAD relating to Bodnar’s activities, and how UKAD acted on that evidence. Stevens maintains that UKAD was ‘reluctant’ to take the information and act on it.
Stevens said that he spoke about Bonar and his activities with four senior members of UKAD over three meetings. He said that he handed UKAD copies of prescriptions from Bonar for HGH, EPO and testosterone. Graham Arthur of UKAD told Stevens during the cyclist’s appeal hearing that the information was of “little or no use to UKAD”.
David Kenworthy, Chair, UK Anti-Doping followed Stevens and Calvert at the hearing and was grilled by the panel as to why UKAD had not acted on the evidence presented by Stevens outlining Bonar’s activities.
Kenworthy reiterated that UKAD had no direct jurisdiction over Bonar as he was operating outside sport, but did admit that UKAD had shown an ‘operation failure’ in not reporting Bonar to the General Medical Council earlier than it did.
One area mentioned by Stevens for which UKAD came under scrutiny was the broadcast via Twitter of an up-coming anti-doping test two days before an amateur cycling event. This was perceived by Stevens as a tip-off to athletes that they might be caught.
Kenworthy acknowledged that UKAD had given prior warning of dope testing via Twitter, but defended the decision to do so.
“It’s absolutely true,” said Kenworthy. “We put out the tweet after lists are closed for that event, and we see who doesn’t turn up [at the event] as that gives us good intelligence on who might be doping, rather than doing blind tests.”
This was met with some criticism from the panel, with the chair replying: “Right, so someone who stubs their toe the night before is functionally indistinguishable to someone who is doping?”
At the end of the hearing, Kenworthy was asked by the committee to provide a written explanation of the Twitter incident.