'False and very misleading' - Irish doctor strongly denies Premier League doping allegations
The doctor at the centre of allegations he prescribed performance-enhancing drugs to sports stars has described the claims as "false and very misleading".
A Sunday Times report alleged Dr Mark Bonar, who is from Dublin and based in London, claimed to have treated more than 150 sportsmen and women - including Premier League footballers, British Tour de France cyclists, tennis players and a British boxer - with banned substances including EPO, human growth hormone and steroids.
A Twitter account purporting to belong to Bonar on Sunday night, although not verified, read: "The @SundayTimesNews allegations are false and very misleading. I have never had a relationship with any premier football club or player.
"I have never prescribed Androgen therapy for the purpose of performance enhancement.. I treat symptomatic men with low Test levels."
Androgen therapy is a class of replacement therapy of hormones such as testosterone which could have performance-enhancing benefits.
An independent inquiry into the allegations is expected to formally begin within the next 24 hours.
The @SundayTimesNews allegations are false and very misleading. I have never had a relationship with any premier football club or player.— Dr Mark S. Bonar (@ZenGrifter) April 3, 2016
I have never prescribed Androgen therapy for the purpose of performance enhancement.. I treat symptomatic men with low Test levels— Dr Mark S. Bonar (@ZenGrifter) April 3, 2016
Culture, Media and Sport Secretary John Whittingdale demanded an urgent investigation into UK Anti-Doping's (UKAD) response after the newspaper claimed the organisation was given information about the doctor's alleged doping activities - which he denies - two years ago but failed to take action to stop him.
UKAD is in discussions with officials from Whittingdale's department over who should lead the inquiry and what its remit will be.
Press Association Sport understands although UKAD was made aware of general allegations made against Dr Bonar by an unnamed sportsman in April and May of 2014 the information was vague and not at the level of detail reportedly uncovered by The Sunday Times.
UKAD was subsequently supplied with handwritten prescriptions apparently issued by Dr Bonar which were given to an independent medical expert for analysis.
"Following those interviews and an investigation UKAD found that there was nothing to indicate that Dr Bonar was governed by a sport and UKAD had no other intelligence to corroborate the sportsman's allegations," UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said.
"After assessing all the evidence, as per the National Intelligence Model, UKAD did not believe that there were grounds, at that point, to refer the case to the General Medical Council (GMC)."
UKAD recommended the sportsman who brought the allegations to its attention gather more information and pass it on to the GMC - the national body responsible for the registration and conduct of doctors - "if appropriate" as the doctor was outside its jurisdiction.
It is understood UKAD has now made a request to The Sunday Times for full disclosure of all its evidence.
The GMC has confirmed while Bonar is registered with it, he does not have a current licence to practise medicine in the UK and the Omniya Clinic in London, where the doctor rented private consulting rooms to treat his patients, said it ended his professional services agreement on Friday after learning he does not hold a current licence.
"Any doctor without a licence who continues to carry out the privileged duties of a doctor is committing a serious breach of our guidance, and potentially a criminal offence," GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said.
The Press Association is attempting to contact Dr Bonar for comment.
Whittingdale has pledged to strengthen the law if investigations throw up any loopholes.
"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," he said.
"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."
A petition appeared on change.org calling for Prime Minister David Cameron and Whittingdale to criminalise doping. It was started in the name of former British Olympic Association chairman Lord Colin Moynihan.
Leicester, Arsenal and Chelsea, the three Premier League clubs named in the report, have all expressed their disappointment at the publication of doping allegations made against them which they claim are "without foundation".
"Leicester City Football Club is extremely disappointed that The Sunday Times has published unsubstantiated allegations referring to players from clubs including Leicester City when, on its own admission, it has insufficient evidence to support the claims," said a statement from the Premier League leaders.
Arsenal were similarly dismissive of the allegations.
"Arsenal Football Club is extremely disappointed by the publication of these false claims which are without foundation," said their statement.
Press Association Sport understands neither the club nor any of their players have ever used the services of Bonar.
The Sunday Times report also claimed Rob Brinded, a former Chelsea fitness coach, had "collaborated" with Bonar but Press Association Sport understands Brinded categorically denies the allegation.
"The claims The Sunday Times put to us are false and entirely without foundation," said a Chelsea statement.
"Chelsea Football Club has never used the services of Dr Bonar and has no knowledge or record of any of our players having been treated by him or using his services."
A British Cycling spokesman called for the Sunday Times to disclose all the evidence it had uncovered.
And the World Anti-Doping Agency announced its support for the independent review of the allegations.
WADA wrote on Twitter: "WADA wholeheartedly supports independent review of @thesundaytimes allegations in the UK. We await conclusions from inquiry with interest."