UK Athletics to cut costs by culling its Diamond League and anti-doping staff

UK Athletics is planning to cut all its major events staff responsible for staging prestigious Diamond League meetings and also intends to reduce its anti-doping team, the Guardian can reveal. The proposals are raising eyebrows among insiders, with the warning it risked “sending entirely the wrong message about the future health and direction of the sport”.

The proposals, which are laid out in a consultation document, will add to concerns that UK Athletics will no longer run the London and Gateshead Diamond League events, a move that would be a substantial blow to the visibility of the sport in Britain.

There are also concerns about the idea of cutting the anti-doping team from three to two given how vital their work is in helping athletes at all levels to conform to World Anti‑Doping Agency rules. Two insiders told the Guardian they feared it could increase the possibility of athletes falling foul of whereabouts regulations.

Up to 25% of UK Athletics staff face redundancy under restructuring proposals announced last week. UKA’s chief executive, Joanna Coates, said such measures were necessary “to rebuild the organisation and ensure it continues to be fit for the future … during a period of reduced income”.

There is sympathy in some quarters for Coates, who took over at UKA this year, because the organisation has been hit hard by mistakes made by previous regimes – including the ill‑fated Athletics World Cup in 2018 and a decision to end a lucrative commercial deal with the Fast Track agency. The pandemic has had a substantial impact on finances, while UKA is also without a TV deal after the BBC let its £2.3m-a-year contract expire.

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However, some in the sport are also struggling to see how cutting its events and anti-doping teams tallies with Coates’s stated ambition to “put athletes first”. As one put it: “The Diamond League is the best showcase for athletes such as Dina Asher-Smith, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Laura Muir to a wider UK audience – so cutting the events team is really worrying. And while losing one member of the anti-doping team doesn’t sound like a lot, you should not underestimate how much they do.

“They are the people who provide athlete education, are always on call, and know which substances are in every supplement or medicine. They are an encyclopaedia of knowledge. They are also the ones who are immediately on to athletes if they miss a test, reminding them how serious it is.”

In a statement UKA said its consultation process towards a new structure would run until 14 October. “As with any such circumstance it would be inappropriate to comment on any roles potentially at risk as all outcomes are subject to this consultation running its course.”



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