20th March 2020
Independent Review Into Uka Board Decisions In 2015 And 2017 Published
20 March 2020
In November 2019, UK Athletics (UKA) commissioned an independent QC-led review into its handling in 2015 and 2017 of issues surrounding the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) and has today published the 130-page report confirming it will implement recommendations in full.
UKA also publishes the Executive Summary of its original internal review report in 2015, which it had not been able to do until conclusion of the separate USADA process. Whilst the outcome of that USADA process came to light in October 2019, publication was withheld until conclusion of this independent review.
The independent review, carried out by John Mehrzad QC, has found that the decisions made by UKA in response to a BBC Panorama programme in 2015 and to a leaked USADA interim report in 2017 were reasonable at those times taking into account the then circumstances and the information then available to UKA. However, the report also finds that the follow-up to those decisions could have been better managed and implemented with administrative processes improved upon.
The report makes five key recommendations, and UKA has today confirmed it will:
1. Appoint an independent specialist person or body to carry out similar reviews in the future.
2. Ensure all future reviews are conducted so that they can be – and are – published in full.
3. Strengthen the UKA’s Coaching Code of Conduct to:
i) Allow UKA to suspend an employee or consultant upon a serious allegation being made (subject to there being sufficient evidence of a case to answer) prior to a formal charge being raised.
ii) Introduce a positive contractual obligation on coaches to inform UKA of all developments they are aware of regarding any anti-doping-related matters.
4. Adopt a rigorous approach to all procedural steps to follow-up board decisions, including paperwork and communications, including public statements.
5. Ensure accurate and timely minutes are taken of all Board meetings
In addition, the UKA Board has decided to create a Licensing and Disciplinary Committee, which will be chaired by, and include in its membership, independent experts, and will be supported by a senior executive reporting to the Chief Executive. This Committee will have oversight responsibility in key areas such as the licensing of coaches.
Chair of UKA Nic Coward said: “John Mehrzad QC has delivered a thorough and detailed independent review into the decisions taken by the UKA board in 2015 and 2017, how they were taken, and the follow up.
“The depth of insight provided by this independent review is timely support for a number of changes that need to happen, and which we are already getting on with. The sport has to meet the highest possible standards, and we need to lead by example.”
Amongst other matters, the report finds that:
– UKA liaised with relevant bodies, UKAD, USADA and UK Sport, about its 2015 internal review.
– The 2015 internal review included input from two external experts in endurance physiology and anti-doping and sports medicine. It also had ongoing support from specialist external solicitors. The review also analysed medical and supplement records and data.
– UKAD and USADA made clear to UKA that the 2015 internal review must not consider any doping related allegations made in the Panorama programme or otherwise, as such allegations were for doping agencies to investigate alone. As a result, the scope of the 2015 internal review was necessarily narrow and its terms of reference agreed in advance with UKAD.
– The findings of the internal review were then shared confidentially with UKAD, USADA and UK Sport, none of whom criticised its scope or thoroughness. UKA agreed with USADA not to publish anything at all from the 2015 review while their investigation was ongoing. Additionally they could not publish the full 2015 internal review due to confidentiality guarantees given to contributors and sensitive medical information referred to in that review.
– The 2015 internal review’s Executive Summary is now published as an appendix to the independent report.
– The UKA Board’s unanimous decision in 2015 to suspend its consultancy arrangement with Salazar for reputational reasons, but to allow Mo Farah to continue being coached by Salazar with UKA putting greater oversight put in place (including at a medical level), was one that was reasonably open to UKA based on information available at the time.
– The implementation of some of the recommendations of the 2015 board decisions could have been better handled, especially the suspension of UKA’s consultancy arrangement with Alberto Salazar and the definitively-drafted public statement in September that year.
– The Board’s decision in 2017 in response to the leaked draft interim USADA report was consistent with its 2015 decision; namely to await the outcome of the USADA process. That decision was taken principally since USADA themselves advised UKA that it would be reckless to rely on that leaked report. That decision was reasonable at the time.
– UKA again liaised with UKAD, USADA and UK Sport in 2017 in response to the leaked USADA report prior to making any decision.
– The UKA Board was not informed by USADA or Salazar that charges for doping violations had been brought against him in June 2017. Had the Board known, and as is recorded in writing at the time, the UKA Board would have severed all ties with Salazar immediately.