Verroken, Michelle – Anti-Dping-Expertin

Warum verließ sie UK-Sport?

18 Jahre leitete Michelle Verroken die Anti-Doping-Abteilung von UK Sport, dem Britischen Sport-Dachverband. Im Dezember 2003 trat sie als Direktorin von Ethics and Drug-Free Sport zurück bzw. musste zurück treten obwohl ihr Vertrag erst am 15.7.2004 auslief. Die Affaire um den Fußballer Rio Ferdinand dürfte entscheidend für ihre Kündigung gewesen sein, doch möglicherweise schwelten seit Längerem Meinungsverschiedenheiten innerhalb des Verbands. Im Falle des Fußballers wurde ihr, wohl zu unrecht, angelastet, den Namen des Fußballers in die Öffentlichkeit getragen zu haben.

Michele Verroken war 2004 Vize-Präsidenten der Vereinigung Nationaler Anti-Doping-Agenturen. Sie gründete SPORTING INTEGRITY- PROFESSIONAL INTEGRITY und ist bis heute hier aktiv. 2019 arbeitete sie für Anti-Doping im e-Sport. 2018 erhielt sie die Ehrendoktorwürde der University of Greenwich.

Hintergrund zum Fall Rio Ferdinand:
Am 23. September 2003 erschien ein Dopingkontrollteam von UK Sport bei Manchester United um bei vier Spielern eine unangekündigte Trainingskontrolle durchzuführen. Den Spielern wurde vor Abgabe der Dopingprobe noch das Duschen erlaubt. Doch Ferdinand verschwand in Richtung Stadt, um Einkaufen zu gehen, eine Urinprobe gabt er nicht ab. Angeblich hatte er die Kontrolle vergessen. Ein nachgereichter Test am nächsten Tag wurde nicht anerkannt. Anfang Oktober wurde er für das Spiel gegen die Türkei aus der Nationalmannschaft ausgeschlossen.

Der Fall löste im Hintergrund kontroverse Diskusionen aus und führte zu heftigen Auseinandersetzungen zwischen den Verbänden, dem Team und Ferdinand. Am 19. Dezember erhält der Spieler eine Sperre von acht Monaten und eine Geldbuße über £50,000. Seinem Einspruch wurde im März 2004 nicht stattgegeben. Auch international erhielt dieser Fall viel Gewicht, siehe >>> hier.

The Guardian, 18.12.2003:

Verroken, UK Sport’s head of ethics and anti-doping, looks certain to pay the price for Ferdinand’s name becoming public, which has so angered the Professional Footballers‘ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor that he has threatened to pull his members out of all tests with UK Sport.

Verroken was told at a meeting on Tuesday with Sue Campbell, the interim chair of UK Sport, that she has no future in her role with the agency that oversees the development of elite athletes and drug testing in British sport.

She is now on paid leave at home and John Scott, the director of international relations and major events, has filled her role temporarily.

Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, expressed his regret. „She’s been the face of British anti-doping for a number of years,“ he said. „One thing she’s always argued for is, if you have a doping agency, it has been independent. Otherwise there are obvious dangers.“

Dabei wurde das Verhalten des Britischen Fußballverbands und der FIFA, die sich zu der Zeit vehement gegen die Unterzeichnung des WADA.Codes stemmten, auch seitens der Britischen Regierung kritisch gesehen wurde.

Ihr Rücktritt geschah in einer Zeit, in der aufgrund des neuen gültigen WADA-Codes die Länder ihre Anti-Doping-Arbeit neu organisieren mussten. Dies betraf auch UK Sport mit seiner Abteilung Ethics and Drug-Free Sport. Michele Verroken als Verfechterin von Unabhängigkeit der Anti-Doping-Arbeit, kritisierte die enge Verflechtung von Anti-Doping mit den Verbänden womit sie heftige Gegenreaktionen in den Sportverbänden und insbesondere auch innerhalb des Dachverbands hervorrief. Es ist anzunehmen, dass sie bereits im Jahr 2003 und zuvor intern entsprechend argumentierte und Gegner/innen auf den Plan rief. Im Juli 2004 sprach sie offen gegenüber der Zeitung The Scotsman (s.u.) und veranlasste UK Sport zu folgendem Statement:

UK Sport, unsurprisingly, denies any lack of transparency or independence. A spokesman said: „British governing bodies don’t want drugs in sport and we have a regime that is not only robust and thorough, but is also fully compliant with the WADA code and is held up by WADA itself as an example of best practice. We have been through a six-month independent review that has concluded that UK Sport is best placed to deliver the British anti-doping programme.“

Unabhängigkeit und Transparenz waren und sind ihre zentralen Forderungen an das Anti-Doping-System bis heute.

UK Sport war und ist immer noch finanziell abhängig von der Britischen Regierung. Verantwortlich für den Bereich Sport und damit auch Doping im Sport ist der Regierungsausschuss Culture, Media and Sport Committee, heute The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Das Komitee führte insbesondere in den letzten Jahren Ermittlungen/Anhörungen zu Doping-Affairen durch, die den Britischen Sport substanziell betreffen. Im Juli 2004 legte es einen Bericht vor, Drugs and role models in sport: making and setting examples, in dem die Doping-Problematik um Fragen der Transparenz und Unabhängigkeit sowie Affairen wie die um Rio Ferdinand und Fußball kritisch beleuchtet wurden. Michele Verroken wurde im Vorfeld von Mitgliedern des Ausschusses in einer nicht öffentlichen Anhörung (Evidence heard in Private Questions) interviewt. Das lange ausführliche Protokoll wurde veröffentlicht und gibt gute Einblicke in die Dopingsituation und -diskussion jener Jahre und die Erfahrungen und Überzeugungen Michele Verrokens:


2016 zeigt sie sich enttäuscht über den Stand des weltweiten Anti-Doping-Systems und sieht kaum Änderungen zum Besseren seit Gründung der WADA. Sie betont:

Partnership – if we are all in this together, then equal partnership must as a minimum include athletes, not a hand-picked group of individuals but proper representation including player unions and commissions across the sporting spectrum. WADA are your only stakeholder that matters. Everyone else is part of the anti-doping industry or sports business. …

Clarity – of anti-doping rules and procedures. Why has this all become so complicated? And why are the rules written in double negatives? Prohibited Lists have been published as lists of pharmacological classes for years. …

Compliance – once we have agreement through partnership and clarity, it should be in everyone’s interest to work on compliance with standards. Not through the one size fits all school of measurement but by external and independent validation of operations and measurable outcomes. When I introduced the first ISO certified anti-doping system in the UK before the advent of the World Anti-Doping Code, the strong selling point to sports administrators and politicians was their commitment to agreed standards; failure to follow through to delivery was the weakness. …

Responsibility – Unless there is collective responsibility for the health of athletes and for the consequences of pushing performance to the limit, the outcomes may become unpalatable. …

I am not convinced that the debate that started in 1999 has finally reached the point where sweeping progress is possible. At this moment in time, too many vested interests exist, with too much power and too little respect for sport or athletes to do the right thing. (The Sport Digest: Michele Verroken: The Doping Crisis and the Sense of Déjà Vu, 8.11.2016

The Scotsman, 31.7.2004:

„It is now a battle we are engaged in, but I am no longer sure we will ever be on the winning side, and I am worried about the situation in the UK where there is a sense that all is well, that we are on top of the problem, leading the world.

„The truth is that we are far behind the Americans who are now taking things very seriously indeed, the French, who have unprecedented Draconian powers, and the Australians, where, as one official said, ‘if we had 17 Nandralone positives, there would have been a Parliamentary enquiry’.“

„Compromises have been made,“ she says. „Do the governing bodies, which are responsible for disciplinary procedures, really want to see their star athletes testing positive and being banned? I don’t think so.

„Government funding – exchequer and Lottery – and private sponsorship are performance-based, and there we have the motive for some sportsmen and women to take drugs and for governing bodies to have a vested interest. We have to set up an independent system where the governing bodies are not judge and jury, where the burden of proof goes from ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to the ‘balance of probability’ and create a system where there is more robust investigation, even opening a dialogue with guilty athletes, some of whom are the victims as opposed to the villains.“

Verroken notes that most UK athletes testing positive have done so abroad. Linford Christie and Dwain Chambers both tested positive in Germany, Alain Baxter failed his test in the US, David Millar was caught in France and Greg Rusedski tested positive at a Swiss tournament. „Is it a coincidence that these positive tests have occurred outside of the UK? I doubt it. The real challenge is for those in charge of formulating policy and its implementation in the UK to ask themselves the same questions and to recognise that a politically-backed, fully-funded, truly independent system with statutory powers is the only viable option.“

Have positive dope test results been covered up in Britain?

„It is hard to come to any other conclusion, but perhaps the real problem has been in the integrity and thoroughness of the actual testing procedures.“

Perhaps most controversially of all, Verroken fears that London’s 2012 Olympic bid may cause further compromises to be made, especially in relation to Paris and New York, London’s main Olympic rivals and within the jurisdiction of two of the most active anti-doping regimes in world sport.

Mike Lee, head of communication for the London 2012 bid, rejected the suggestion. „We refute what Michelle Verroken is suggesting and have every confidence that the UK Sport drug testing regime is amongst the most rigid in the world.“

Verroken remains unconvinced. When asked to look to the future, she considers the prognosis to be „bleak, as long as the fox is guarding the henhouse“.

Independent, 6.6.2004:

Why she was fired remains a mystery. It is almost six months since she was called into the office of Sue Campbell, freshly installed as interim chairperson of the government-funded quango, and told: „I believe the time has come for us to part company.“ No reason has been given, either to her, her solicitor, the media, or even Parliament, where questions have been raised by shadow sports spokesman Lord Moynihan, who first hired her when he was sports minister. It wasn’t even mentioned in UK Sport’s website-posted weekly news-letter. The exit of the chief executive, Richard Callicott, another early victim of the Campbell cleaver, remains equally unexplained.

Speculation has ranged from wrongdoing, which she resolutely denies, to jealousy within the organisation because of the high profile she enjoyed. But the truth is that Verroken, 49, more than anyone else at UK Sport, was responsible for raising the profile of an organisation which otherwise would draw glazed eyes from the majority of the public if asked what they are and what they do.

Clearly UK Sport weren’t big enough for her and Sue Campbell once the sport minister’s hired gun rode into town. We know that Richard Caborn endorsed her removal, though he denies he instigated it. But it’s a rum business, especially as only a few weeks before the World Anti-Doping Agency journal had praised her work.

By a quirky coincidence her dismissal came soon after it was learned that Rio Ferdinand had missed a scheduled UK Sport drugs test. Manchester United were furious at the leak of his lack of a leak. It certainly did not come from Verroken, as all media sources will testify, but did the football lobby do for her as it did for Kate Hoey? She recalls how her 14-year-old son Nicholas was collared by schoolmates who gleefully told him: „Rio Ferdinand got your mum the sack“. …