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Knutsford Crown Court

8.23 pm

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): I wish to present to the House a petition to save local justice in my county, organised by the Knutsford Guardian and many local shops, restaurants and businesses and signed by 2,603 local people in just a couple of weeks. The petition states:


To lie upon the Table.

9 May 2002 : Column 402

Paul Edwards

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Woolas.]

8.24 pm

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): On 23 April, the Minister for Sport replied to my parliamentary questions about UK Sport, a publicly funded body, and about the case of my constituent Mr. Paul Edwards. That followed an exchange of correspondence between the Minister and me in January and February, and a meeting in March between Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of UK Sport, Michelle Verroken, director of anti-doping, Paul Edwards, his advisers and me.

In one of my questions, I asked the Government to


I asked that because of the manifest reluctance of UK Sport, UK Athletics and the testing laboratory to reopen an issue that is convenient for them to keep closed.

The Minister's answer referred to future, not past cases. He replied:


I sincerely hope that the Minister's faith in UK Sport's ability to preside over


is well founded. My experiences in the past six months suggest that that may not be the case.

In those six months, UK Sport appears to have taken no effective action about Mr. Paul Edwards, and UK Athletics has refused to take any. The way forward that has been offered is, as I understand it, a recipe for even more delay. That does not inspire confidence in anti-doping procedures of the future.

In a reply to another question, the Minister stated:


I agree that that would be so in an ideal world. However, in the case of my constituent, UK Sport and UK Athletics appear so far to be institutionally incapable of tackling what has become an issue of morality and justice. We have encountered stonewalling, delaying tactics, wilful prevarication and appalling obfuscation.

There is no need for me to remind the Minister that UK Sport is wholly funded by taxpayers' and lottery money. Ultimate accountability for the use of that money rests with the Minister as a custodian of the public purse. In the case that we are considering, public money is working against individual justice.

Incredible to relate, the testing process in the case of Paul Edwards clearly infringed the code of the International Olympic Committee, UK Sport's requirements and those of the International Amateur Athletics Federation. The tests were therefore invalid and the case against Edwards collapses. UK Sport and UK Athletics have known that for many months.

9 May 2002 : Column 403

In testing the samples, the British Athletic Federation infringed the IOC code of testing. Appendix C of article 5:6 demands that, to maintain the integrity of analysis, the two samples must be tested by entirely different personnel. If that is not possible, the B sample must be tested at a different laboratory. That did not happen with my constituent. The same person tested both samples in the same laboratory. The tests were therefore invalid.

The IOC medical code was also infringed. It requires the production of a chain of custody. A form, which accompanies the samples, must be signed by every custodian. In Edwards' case, it was never produced. When the deficiency was discovered, UK Sport tried to recreate one, but it did not account for the first 24 hours of the samples' transit. It is simply not possible to establish that the samples were kept free from contamination.

UK Sport's requirements were not observed. According to its newsletter in December 1996, the pH level of the sample had to be recorded by the sampling officer at the time of collection. In the case of Paul Edwards, the sampling officer did not do that. He thereby failed to follow the procedures required by UK Sport. By its own standards, the tests were invalid.

More than that, IAAF requirements were not observed. It has been accepted that poor storage leading to sample deterioration can distort epitestosterone-to-testosterone ratios. At the time, the IAAF required both pH and specific gravity data to be taken. In Edwards' case, they were not, so the tests also failed to conform to IAAF standards.

The IAAF would have required a second sample to be collected if the first sample had had a pH level in excess of 7—the acceptable range being between 5 and 7. Even if the pH had been measured and accepted at 7, however, the laboratory reading of 7.3 would indicate deterioration in the sample between collection and testing, owing to poor storage after collection and before testing. Moreover, a pH reading of 7.3 exceeds accountability guidelines for the processing of samples. I understand that it was this point that eventually cleared Diane Modahl. In Edwards' case, it has been ignored.

The infringement of IOC, IAAF and UK Sport requirements is not the end of the story, however: it is nothing like it. Just as extraordinary is the fact that the laboratory never produced the calibration data without which the soundness of the testing process cannot be established. It cannot, therefore, be established that the tests were sound. The disciplinary committee chairman confirmed:


Amazingly, having admitted this deficiency, the chairman went on to base his ruling on what was an unproven and entirely assumed epitestosterone—testosterone ratio. It beggars belief that an athlete's career has been destroyed on this basis. Moreover, I am told that it was this precise point—the absence of calibration data—which led to the lifting of the ban on Mark Hylton on appeal. What happened with Hylton should have happened with Edwards.

In Edwards' case, credulity is stretched even further. His tests are recorded as having been completed in three minutes. Other sampling officers are prepared to stake

9 May 2002 : Column 404

their integrity on the assertion that accurate testing cannot possibly take place so quickly. On this, UK Sport's reaction is extraordinary. It hides behind its own regulations and refuses to comment. It has stated:


In other words, UK Sport is prepared to ignore what a sampling officer says if his comments are inconvenient or embarrassing.

This is still not the end of the saga. For five years, my constituent has protested that information essential to his defence was withheld from him. The testing laboratory, UK Athletics and UK Sport denied this, time and again, until 5 February this year, when UK Athletics wrote to him:


As Edwards has always argued, this meant that he could not expose the defects of the testing process during the hearings. Even his many requests for data protection were refused.

The saga continues. The samples provided by Edwards were stored in Versapak containers. Even at the time, it was acknowledged that these were unreliable. In UK Sport's own words,


the Versapak closure system—


but


In other words, there was no reliable container system at the time. Incredibly, UK Sport and UK Athletics persist in saying that this has no bearing on the case. In fact, this confirms absolutely the unreliability of the testing process in Edwards' case.

It would be hard to compose a saga of greater incompetence than that involved in the circumstances of the testing process and hearings that led to the imposition of Paul Edwards' life ban. There were appalling irregularities and glaring inconsistencies: it was a total shambles. UK Athletics insists that the panels hearing Edwards' case were independent, yet all three were wholly appointed by UK Athletics. Moreover, at one of the hearings there was no one competent or qualified to receive scientific evidence.

Mr. David Moorcroft of UK Athletics is on record as saying that the standard of evidence required in dope-testing cases must be at least as high as the standard required in a criminal court. If only that were true. In a criminal court, the so-called evidence against Paul Edwards would have been thrown out years ago on the basis that it was fundamentally flawed.

The Minister is a fair and reasonable man. He will know, even if is not politic for him to acknowledge it publicly this evening, that any one of the irregularities I have listed would be sufficient for the charges to be dismissed in a criminal court of law. An appalling injustice has been inflicted on my constituent, and I am dismayed that UK Sport and UK Athletics have so far failed to deliver justice.

9 May 2002 : Column 405

What confidence can anyone have that UK Sport can be an effective lead agency, and UK Athletics a led agency, in a national anti-doping policy that is consistent, transparent and accountable, when they cannot put right the monstrous injustice to my constituent that is being perpetrated? The time is long overdue for my constituent's life ban to be lifted. That is only right, and I appeal to the Minister.


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