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Sponsors on edge as doctor claims he gave banned drugs to 150 athletes, including Chelsea and Arsenal players

By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

April 3, 2016 | 5 min read

A private doctor has claimed that he gave at least 150 athletes performance enhancing drugs, including footballers from Arsenal and Chelsea, which will likely put respective sponsors Emirates and The Yokohama Rubber Company on edge.

The allegations add to what has been a tumultuous time for sport after a series of high profile incidences of doping were exposed, which has seen a number of sponsors walk away from lucrative agreements.

An investigation by The Sunday Times published today (3 April) documents Dr Mark Bonar explainging that he had prescribed the banned substance erythropoietin (EPO) to a number of athletes.

This included "a few footballers" who play or have played for Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal and Birmingham as well as an England cricket international star, British cyclists, and tennis players.

The newspaper said it has no independent evidence that Bonar treated the athletes.

Chelsea and Arsenal both hit out at the Sunday Times for publishing the “false” and “baseless” story.

A spokesman for Arsenal said: "Arsenal Football Club is extremely disappointed by the publication of these false claims which are without foundation.

"The Sunday Times knows that these allegations are baseless but has preferred to publish regardless.

"The club takes its responsibilities in this area very seriously and our players are well aware of what is expected.

"We strictly adhere to all guidelines set by the World Anti-Doping Agency."

Meanwhile a spokesman for Chelsea said: "The claims The Sunday Times put to us are false and entirely without foundation.

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"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.

'We take the issue of performance enhancing drugs in sport extremely seriously and comply fully with all anti-doping rules and regulations.

"Chelsea FC players are regularly and rigorously tested by the relevant authorities."

However, the government has called for an inquiry into the UK Anti-Doping Agency (Ukad), with Culture, Media and Sport secretary John Whittingdale saying he was “grateful to the excellent investigative journalism by The Sunday Times”.

He has asked for 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.”

This could put pressure on sponsors to coperate after the World Anti-Doping Agency called on them to help fund the fight against drug cheats. While in the past they might have given athletes or teams the benefit of the doubt, they have been increasingly quick to walk away at the mere hint of doping.

Russia was recently suspended from participating in athletics meets after an investigation revealed a state-sponsored doping programme. Sponsors Adidas and Nestle immediately cut all ties with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

More recently, Maria Sharapova was ditched by Nike, Tag Heurer and Porshe after she admitted to using meldonium, a drug designed to aid blood flow.

It remains to be seen how sponsors react to this latest revelation of doping in sport. Emirates inked a £150m deal to sponsor Arsenal in 2012 while Chelsea announced a massive five-year deal The Yokohama Rubber Company just last year.

The Drum has contacted both Emirates and The Yokohama Rubber Company for comment but had yet to receive a response at the time of writing.

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