UKAD announces that the former coach of Bernice Wilson has received a lifetime ban following nine anti-doping rule violations

Former UK Athletics-licensed coach George Skafidas has been handed a lifetime ban from all sport, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) announced on Wednesday (March 16).

Skafidas, who coached former GB sprinter Bernice Wilson when she was banned for a drugs offence, received his lifetime ban after admitting to all nine charges of anti-doping rule violations.

As well as previously working as a UK Athletics-licensed coach, Greek Skafidas ran a training group for young athletes at the Princess Royal Sports Arena in Lincolnshire. UKAD confirmed that the nine violations related to his conduct with Wilson.

In 2011 Wilson was suspended for four years following her positive test for testosterone and clenbuterol. She appealed the decision, but it was upheld.

As AW reported at the time, when Wilson was asked at a UKAD hearing to state any substances that might have led to the adverse finding, she mentioned a “multi-vitamin” drink provided by Skafidas, which she understood he obtained from a supplier in Germany. As she was being represented by Skafidas at the hearing, the investigating panel pointed out the potential for a conflict of interest, but after an adjournment, the pair returned to clarify it was no part of her defence or mitigation to suggest the drink as a possible source of the illegal substances.

A statement released by UKAD on Wednesday reads in part: “In May and June 2011 Dr Skafidas administered testosterone and other prohibited substances to Bernice Wilson, which resulted in the athlete testing positive following an in-competition test at the Bedford International Games on 12 June 2011.

“At a hearing before a national anti-doping panel on 12 and 13 September 2011, Dr Skafidas represented Ms Wilson and knowingly provided false information to the panel. Following that hearing Ms Wilson was banned from all sport for four years.”

The statement adds: “In January and February 2015, before Ms Wilson’s return to sport, Dr Skafidas again administered prohibited substances to her. Despite not being eligible to compete, Ms Wilson was still subject to anti-doping regulations and following an out-of-competition test on 12 February 2015 Ms Wilson tested positive for clomiphene.

“Dr Skafidas then proceeded to subvert the doping control process by removing and concealing a Notice of Charge sent to Ms Wilson by UKAD and knowingly provided a false account to UKAD during his interview in Greece on 10 June 2015.”

UKAD also confirmed that following her positive test for clomiphene in February 2015, Wilson was charged with a second anti-doping rule violation. “As a result of her prompt admission and the substantial assistance she has given UKAD, Ms Wilson will receive a 75% reduction in her sanction, from 40 months to 10 months,” reads the UKAD statement.

Therefore, Wilson’s ineligibility ran from February 12, 2015, to December 11, 2015.

Commenting on the case, UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead described it as “not only incredibly disturbing but sad”.

“Here is a coach who set-up and ran a training group for young and talented athletes; athletes like Bernice who had a bright and promising future in the sport. He was put into a position of trust, he abused that trust and as a result categorically destroyed a career,” she said.

“Dr Skafidas had a personal relationship with the athlete and she was clearly under his influence. Yet despite this relationship and instead of protecting and nurturing her career, he took calculated and deceptive steps that not only destroyed it but that also put her life in danger.

“Athlete support personnel have a huge responsibility to guide their athletes onto the right path of competing clean. Yet here is a coach who blatantly chose the wrong path and therefore it is absolutely right that Dr Skafidas receive a lifetime ban. He and others like him, have absolutely no place in sport.”

Sapstead added: “I applaud the bravery of Bernice Wilson for coming forward to speak to us. I would encourage anyone with information, no matter how big or small, to come forward and tell us what they know in confidence via reportdoping.com.”

The full written decision can be found under the current rule violations section of the UKAD website.