New law agreed to prevent sports coaches having relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds

A year to the day since sport’s paedophile scandal erupted, the sports minister has announced an agreement has been struck to outlaw coaches having sex with 16 and 17-year-olds under their care.

Tracey Crouch told parliament the Ministry of Justice had finally agreed to bring the industry into line with the education sector, in which it is illegal for teachers to sleep with pupils under the age of 18.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph last month, Crouch said changing the law had been her “number-one priority” but admitted the upcoming legislative timetable was “incredibly tight” amid Brexit.

The NSPCC in January called for the closure of a “loophole” allowing coaches to have relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds under their care.

That came on the back of football’s worst ever scandal, which erupted two months earlier when Andy Woodward revealed he had been the victim of child sexual abuse, prompting an avalanche of similar revelations from other players.

Speaking at the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport parliamentary questions session, Crouch said: “A year ago, Andy Woodward reported historic allegations of sexual abuse in football. It was very brave of him to do so.

“I’m pleased to announce that I have secured ministerial agreement to change the law on positions of trust to include sports coaches.”

Former footballers reveal toll of abuse


Former footballers reveal toll of abuse


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Crouch’s announcement came a month after British sport’s most senior child protection officer condemned what she branded “a lack of will” to change the law.

Anne Tiivas, the head of the Child Protection in Sport Unit – a partnership between the NSPCC, Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland and Sport Wales – told a Westminster Media Forum on integrity and duty of care in sport: “If you are a teacher today and you have a sexual relationship with an otherwise consenting 16 or 17-year-old, it’s a criminal offence and you will get barred from teaching.

“If you’re a coach with that same child in the evening, that is not a criminal offence.

“We must plug that loophole; it’s completely incongruous. And it’s very difficult to understand the lack of will to tackle that.”

Dame Katherine Grainger insists there are ‘very good reasons’ funded athletes are not granted employee status

UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger has warned that giving funded athletes ‘employee’ status would have “huge cost implications”, saying there were “very good reasons” why that model has never been used. But she added that it was an option which would “be discussed” by the body.

Athlete rights and welfare are in the spotlight in the wake of a series of scandals in British Sport over the last 18 months, with Tracey Crouch, the sports minister, conceding at a Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing on Tuesday that it was “quite possible” the proliferation of issues might stem from athletes’ lack of employment status and fear of speaking out.

Grainger, speaking during a visit to British Sailing’s national academy in Weymouth on Monday, said the status of athletes, and how their funding worked, was under constant review.

“We’re looking now at the funding cycles for 2020 and 2024… is the funding done in the right way? Should the money be spent as it was before?” Grainger said. “All these things should be looked at every cycle.

“Athletes’ rights are always something which will be a priority. It’s just whether that route [giving them employee status] is the way forward.”

Asked whether she felt it was, Grainger replied: “It’s a discussion that’s going to be had. But there are very good reasons why it hasn’t been that way so far. I did say when I initially came in, ‘What about pension rights or any of these other things?’ And… it would have huge implications cost-wise on the system. To look into how it could be changed, you would also need to look at what could be lost by making changes.”

Making athletes employees would presumably make them liable for tax on their funding, while UK Sport would have to pay pension and national insurance contributions.

Jess Varnish, the former track cyclist, is currently in the process of suing UK Sport and British Cycling for sex discrimination, detriment suffered from whistleblowing, victimisation and unfair dismissal after she was removed from the programme last year. 

Jess Varnish in action

Jess Varnish is currently suing UK Sport and British Cycling

Credit:
PA

Asked whether she had been aware of UK Sport’s approach to the case, and whether she was comfortable with it, Grainger said: “I wasn’t aware of it until I read about it in the press. However, I’ve spent 20 years not just being an athlete but also studying law. And I know a lot of those things which are reported in a very heavy-handed way are very natural processes within the legal system.

“So I think until everyone knows exactly the process that was followed and why, it’s dangerous to make assumptions based on what you read at a very surface level of what happened, and who said what to who.

“From what I know so far, nothing has been done which wouldn’t have been recommended as a normal course of action in this kind of legal suit.”

Grainger, who won four Olympic silver medals and a gold medal at London 2012 in a glittering rowing career, was appointed chair of UK Sport in April and has been touring the country, visiting sporting bodies, trying to get first-hand feedback from athletes and coaches and administrators.

“It’s about listening and learning,” she said of her mission. “I’ve never had a role like this before. I don’t come in with very preconceived notions. I just want to get a feel for what is interesting people, concerning people, exciting people.

“I feel from the conversations I have had that people have been very honest. And they have shared the critical stuff as well as the positive stuff.”

Alan Shearer: I fear I may develop dementia from years of heading heavy footballs 

Today’s footballers may be at greater risk of head injury and dementia because balls are heavier than in the past, a new documentary suggests.

Although vintage brown leather footballs appear more cumbersome than today’s precision-engineered balls, in fact, they were 40 grams lighter. Only when they were wet did they become significantly heavier.

Speaking to the Telegraph ahead of a new BBC documentary looking into the issue of dementia in football, former England captain Alan Shearer, 47, said he was concerned that continually heading modern balls in practice may have damaged his brain.

Several former players, including Jeff Astle and Nobby Stiles developed dementia in later years, a condition that their families believe was a direct result of heading the ball. In 2002, a coroner even gave the cause of Astle’s death as industrial disease.

Alan Shearer was asked to take part in testing at the University of Stirling 

Alan Shearer was asked to take part in testing at the University of Stirling 

Credit:
BBC

But little has been done since to tackle the issue, and there are fears that today’s players may be at even greater risk from heavier balls, particularly teens whose brains are still developing.

“I am concerned that I might develop dementia, it is definitely something that bothers me, that I might not have a future because of football,” Shearer said, who was known to practice heading 150 times a day, and suffered regular head-to-head clashes on the pitch.

“I’ve had head injuries on the pitch and you run off and get a few stitches and you get bandaged up and you’re straight back out. It was what was expected.

“But it’s more the damage that happened by continually heading the ball in practice. That’s what worry’s me. Then you would be heading the ball 30, 40, 50 times.

“It’s been 15 years now since the coroner found that Jeff Astle died from an industrial disease. Yet nothing has changed. His family are angry and disappointed, and rightly so.

“When Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack and collapsed, within six months there were defibrillators on every pitch.”

Alan Shearer and Dr Willie Stewart examining the brains of people who have died of dementia

Alan Shearer and Dr Willie Stewart examining the brains of people who have died of dementia 

Credit:
BBC

Shearer asked to make the documentary with the BBC after stumbling across the film Concussion while on a flight, which highlights the issue of dementia in American football.

For the programme, he visited scientists at the University of Stirling who measured his brain function before and after a session of heading a new ball 20 times, fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick.

The scientists found intriguing differences in his brain chemistry which will be revealed in the programme on Sunday.

Last year the Scottish researchers were the first to detected direct changes in the brain after players were exposed to minor head impacts, as opposed to clinical brain injuries like a concussion.

Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Magdalena Ietswaart, a senior psychology lecturer at Stirling, said: “Although the changes were temporary, we believe they are significant to brain health, particularly if they happen over and over again as they do in football heading.

“With large numbers of people around the world participating in this sport, it is important that they are aware of what is happening inside the brain and the lasting effect this may have.”

The footballer was asked to carry out a number of balance and mental tests to see if heading the ball affected brain function 

The footballer was asked to carry out a number of balance and mental tests to see if heading the ball affected brain function 

Credit:
BBC

The researchers also weighed old balls compared to the seemingly lighter balls used today. Surprisingly, the average older ball was lighter, coming in at  around 390g while newer versions weighed in at roughly 430g.

Footballs changed significantly from the early 80s when they began to be coated in polyurethane to keep out the water. The Stirling researchers found that soaking an older ball in water could raise its weight to 595g, making rainy days significantly more dangerous for heading.

Shearer also underwent brain scans to find out if he had signs of dementia. The results will be revealed in the programme 

Shearer also underwent brain scans to find out if he had signs of dementia. The results will be revealed in the programme 

Credit:
BBC

Shearer also had his brain scanned to see if he had any signs of dementia.

“I have never had problems with my memory, but I was thinking ‘what am I putting myself through?’ and ‘what might I have done to myself’,” he said.

“They sat me down beforehand and said, ‘listen there is a chance we could find something nasty’ and I was thinking, ‘I’m not sure I actually want to know.’

“It’s really important that we get answers to whether football can cause dementia. So this documentary is really a call to action, for more research so we can start making decisions like whether to ban heading for under 16s.

“There are 850,000 people suffering dementia in Britain, and for some that might because of football. And that can’t be right.”

Alan Shearer: Dementia Football & Me is broadcast on November 12 at 10.30pm on BBC One.

British aerial skier Lloyd Wallace soars towards Pyeongchang after horror crash that left him in a coma

Lloyd Wallace was careering towards a ski jump at around 40mph when he lost his balance and began to fall. A moment later, his head buckled into the upcoming ramp, knocking him instantly unconscious, and he slipped into the waiting water.

His inanimate body, which was hauled from the training pool by a pair of quick-thinking doctors, was then rushed into a helicopter and flown to hospital. There, the 22-year-old was placed into an induced coma.

Wallace tells the story calmly, without embellishments. It helps that he cannot remember anything about the crash, which took place in Switzerland a little more than two months ago, instead relying on the accounts of those who saw the horror unfold.

It also helps that this is the precise fear that aerial skiers must mentally confront every time they pull their goggles over their eyes, point their feet downhill and launch themselves up a ramp and six metres into the air, where they contort their bodies in a series of flips and twists.

“I had done a few jumps that session already,” he says. “I was just going off and doing one of the tricks I have been doing for a few years now – a lay double-full full, a triple twisting backflip.

“It was just one of those completely unlucky things. I had done this hundreds of times and there was nothing I could have done about it. You can’t tell when you are going to catch an edge.”

If you were looking for an illustrative example of the dangers of aerial skiing, then this would be it. For Wallace, though, it is simply par for the course.

“With any sport you put a crash helmet on for, you know the risks and are willing to take the risks,” he says. “I have had crashes before and getting back from this one has been easier than the others because I don’t have those bad memories of crashing.”

Getting back on the slopes has also been made easier by the added motivation of qualification for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Wallace is on course to become the first British male aerial skier to compete at the Games since 1998, provided he can earn enough points in six World Cup events before then.

If he does make it, it will be a triumph of his dedication and his pedigree. Both of his parents, Robin and Jilly, were Olympic freestyle skiers, and as a Brit he has had to work harder than most to reach the sport’s literally dizzying heights.

Wallace takes to the skies

Wallace takes to the skies

“Obviously skiing is not really a career in Great Britain, so I have been at the University of Bath for the past four years and had to get my degree,” he says. “Balancing my work and athlete life has been difficult because I am away from university from November through to March.

“I would get back from training, have a gym session, and then have to get my laptop out, start to read papers and write essays.”

Although he has received financial support this year from the funding arm of the International Olympic Committee, Wallace has largely had to pay his own way, and he is currently currently crowdfunding to help his push for an Olympic place.

“If there had not been any hurdles in my career, I would be at the top of the game, pushing for those top five places,” he says. Instead, he knows a medal in South Korea will be unlikely, even if the sport’s high-risk nature makes it fertile ground for potential upsets.

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Last year, Wallace achieved his country’s best World Cup result in more than two decades, finishing seventh at Deer Valley in the US, while he also claimed a bronze medal at the junior World Championships in 2015.

Wallace trains full time with the Swiss national aerial ski team, and he was at a water ramp (where athletes land in water rather than snow) in Mettmenstetten at the time of his crash in August. Later this month he will fly to Finland for another training camp.

The importance of proper guidance is hard to overstate in this most spectacular of snowsports. Coaches scream at athletes both before the jump and when they are airborne, guiding them through rotations and flips in a bid to impress the watching judges and ensure their safety.

“If I have gone too far into the jump, my coach will be shouting ‘stretch, stretch, stretch!” Wallace says. “I have got to make myself as big as possible to slow the rotation. If you are way too small, they will be shouting ‘pull, pull, pull!’”

Wallace has not yet attempted that same trick that landed him in a hospital bed, but he insists he will have no qualms about his first big jump since the crash. “I am 100 per cent,” he says. “Fully recovered.”

But what of his parents? “I think it was very scary for them,” he says. “I think it was probably more scary for them than it has been for me. But both of them went to the Olympics doing this sport and my dad coached it for years and years so they knew it could happen. We are very happy that nothing serious in the long term did happen.

“There was never a point where we were thinking I would come out of hospital and not ski again. It didn’t matter how long it was going to take, I was always going to get back on it.”

Lizzy Yarnold:  ’It can be an unsafe sport. But that’s kind of what I love about it. It’s tough’

Here is an idea for a new television quiz show: try and guess the profession of a guest from their favourite pastime. First up: Lizzy Yarnold. It is a fair bet to suggest that, when you hear what she likes to do in her spare time, you would never imagine that she will, in 100 days, be flinging herself headfirst down an icy tube high up in the South Korean mountains at speeds of upwards of 80mph in defence of her Olympic skeleton bob title.

“I love a spreadsheet,” she says, as she sits in her training base at Bath University. “When I get my mortgage annual statement, I absolutely love to check it against my own calculations.”

In person, Britain’s foremost adrenalin athlete is nothing like you might imagine someone to be whose day job involves a continuous flirtation with danger. Not remotely unhinged, not apparently harbouring a death wish, the woman who has recently taken a degree in book-keeping has the organised, eminently sensible air of the head girl of a Kent grammar school she once was.

“It’s odd isn’t it?” she says of the yawning gap between reality and assumption. “But my dad knew I was like this when I was a little girl and we went to the Dome in 2000. There was a ride like a tower where you got dropped from a great height. I badgered him to let me go on it and when I got off, Dad was expecting me to be all flustered. Instead I said: can I go again?”

She has been riding a roller-coaster ever since, careering down icy runs across the globe. And, as she gears up to pursue a second successive gold medal, she admits that her day job has not got any less terrifying over the years.

Lizzy Yarnold

Lizzy Yarnold is aiming to become the first Briton to defend a Winter Olympics title successfully

Credit:
John Lawrence for The Telegraph

“I am often scared. Sometimes petrified,” she says. “I have a bit of an odd thing, when I put my helmet on I say to myself: why am I doing this, I don’t have to. But actually fear is your friend. You have to be awake, alive, need to be thinking quickly. The truth is, it can be an unsafe sport. But that’s kind of what I love about it. It’s tough.”

And during the danger of the track, Yarnold’s inner accountant comes into its own. Her rational, organised nature helps her enormously as she prepares to push her sled out on to the ice.




Yarnold ‘can’t wait’ to get her medal


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“I’ve learned to stay calm. It’s like relaxed aggression,” she says. “You have to keep your head. You need pinpoint focus, you need your peripheral vision filtering constantly. When you’re on the track, you’re not just using your eyes, you are using the sense of smell, the pressure in your chest, you’re feeling the G-forces in your neck and chest and arms. It’s a real orchestra of information.”

When you’re on the track, you’re not just using your eyes, you are using the sense of smell, the pressure in your chest, you’re feeling the G-forces in your neck and chest and arms. It’s a real orchestra of information

It’s a wonderfully evocative phrase: an orchestra of information. And over the past four years Yarnold has proved an expert in processing the orchestra’s output. A sports science graduate, her approach is meticulous, analytical, thorough. “Yes, I am a nerd,” she laughs. “I think we all are. I’m not the technical specialist, I put my trust in those departments. But I know we are at the cutting edge and I’m fascinated by the advances in sled design. When I’m on the start line, trying to feel as relaxed as possible, it really helps to know you have the best underneath you.”

She calls her sled – designed with the assistance of the McLaren Formula One Team – Mervyn, after a former work colleague.

“I used to work in insurance before I became Lottery funded. Back in 2010, I couldn’t afford to buy a £26 runner bag and I put a pot in the office kitchen with a note attached saying I need money. Mervyn came over and asked me about it. I gave him the full spiel about how one day I’d love to be at the Olympics. He didn’t say anything, just took an envelope out of his pocket and gave it to me. There was £200 in it. He is someone who believed in me who didn’t really know me. He has been a wonderful support.”

Lizzy Yarnold

Yarnold happily concedes she is a nerd when it comes to sled design

Credit:
John Lawrence for The Telegraph

His support enabled her to train alongside Amy Williams, her predecessor as Olympic champion. As much as her hi-tech sled it was that, she says, that transformed her from wannabe into contender.

“Trying to keep up with Amy in the gym made me realise I could do it. I saw she wasn’t superhuman as I thought she must be, she was a normal person. So if she can do it, why can’t I?”

Yarnold hopes she will further follow in Williams’ footsteps as an inspiration to the next generation of British skeleton crews. “We have 25 athletes on the programme and I’ve never seen such numbers or such quality. It really makes me emotional to see that they, too, could live out their dreams. I’m a believer everyone improves if you push each other. We share, we all learn from each other and get better together.”

Indeed, she believes as she begins her final preparations for South Korea that she has never been in better shape, despite a recent diagnosis of an inner-ear complaint that can make her feel nauseous at the end of a descent.

“I hate to say the cliche of four more years’ experience, but I have learned so much. It hasn’t always been easy. But physically – regardless of those issues – I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been.”

And Lizzy Yarnold should know: doubtless she has plotted her progress on a spreadsheet.

The secret documents that could shed light on sport’s famous conspiracy theories

With long-classified documents concerning the assassination of President John F Kennedy due to be released pending President Donald Trump’s approval, conspiracy theories are running wild. The sporting world is not immune to such theories either, with a long history of alleged fixes, frame-ups, biased officiating, doped-up athletes and inside jobs filling the imagination of aggrieved and bitter fans. Let’s ignore Ockham’s Razor and entertain some of them. 

Did Sonny Liston take a dive? 

By 1965, Muhammad Ali was no longer Cassius Clay and had taken the world heavyweight title from the grasp of intimidating bruiser Sonny Liston. Their second title fight in Maine however, would be shrouded in controversy forevermore. Ali caught Liston with what looked an innocuous counter-punch in the first-round, but Liston hit the canvas. 

Referee Jersey Joe Walcott did not begin the count, and the after Liston stayed down for more than 10 seconds the fight was stopped after a brief resumption. Ali won on technical knockout, and the decisive blow was called ‘The Phantom Punch’. 

Rumours abound that Liston bet against on himself to pay off gambling debts, that the Nation of Islam made threats against his life or the Mafia fixed the result. Ali’s punch did catch Liston a glancing blow to the temple however, and that would be the simplest explanation. Make your own mind up. 

 The secret document that could solve the mystery: Sonny Liston’s bookmaker’s ledger. 

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Did an Arsenal-supporting chef poison Tottenham?

An episode that left the southern end of Seven Sisters Road in stitches for years. On the final day of the 2005-6 Premier League season, victory over West Ham would have assured Tottenham Hotspur of Champions League qualification at the expense of fierce local rivals Arsenal. At the time, Spurs had not finished above Arsene Wenger’s side since 1995. 

However, on the eve of the final-day decider at Upton Park, the Spurs squad was plagued by a mysterious bout of food poisoning. There we even doubts about the match going ahead, with key Spurs players such as Michael Carrick, Robbie Keane and Jermain Jenas suffering. It was later revealed, that the Italian food at their Canary Wharf hotel was probably to blame. 

“Lasagne and spaghetti Bolognese were on the menu, we ate, and then in the middle of the night we started dropping like flies,” reflected Jenas. “It was mayhem.”

Spurs lost at West Ham 2-1, while a Thierry Henry hat-trick fired Arsenal to a 4-2 victory over Wigan in the final match at Highbury. The day was a rich source of schadenfreude and mocking chants for several seasons. 

The secret document that could solve the mystery:The head chef’s Arsenal season ticket

Spurs

Martin Jol consoled Robbie Keane

Credit:
EPA

Did Colonel Gaddafi organise the disappearance of Shergar?

With the exception of the Lord Lucan mystery, no disappearing act has left such a lasting imprint on British folklore. One of the great flat-racing horses in history, Derby winner Shergar was taken by armed men in balaclavas from his stables in Co Kildare Ireland in 1983, and never seen again. 

His fate is still unknown, and the incident has been the source of several books and films since. One lurid conspiracy theory is that he was kidnapped by the IRA and given to Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi in exchange for arms. Another is that he was taken by the New Orleans Mafia. 

The secret document that could solve the mystery: The horse’s dental records. 

Did Bobby Riggs rig the ‘Battle of the Sexes’?

2017 was the year of the sporting novelty event with Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor’s ludicrous bout in Las Vegas, but it was by no means sport’s first publicity stunt. In 1973, professional tennis player Bobby Riggs challenged multiple Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King to a match. The implication of course, was that the match would decide whether or not the best of the women’s game could keep up with their male counterparts. 

King wiped the floor with him, and many suggested that Riggs had bet against himself and organised the whole event as a hustle. The more likely explanation is that the premise of the event – female athletes having to prove they are ‘as good’ as men- was nonsense to begin with. 

The secret document that could solve the mystery: Riggs’ bank statement before and after the event.

Battle of the Sexes

Billie Jean King holds down the net as Bobby Riggs

Credit:
AP

Did Michael Phelps actually lose at the Beijing Olympics?

Few could dispute Michael Phelps’s Olympic legacy, but some do dispute his seventh Olympic gold won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The American made an awful start to the 100-meter butterfly final, and trailed Serbian Milorad Cavic for most of the race until he chased him down on the final length. 

The human eye could not decipher who had triumphed, but Phelps was awarded gold by one-hundredth of a second. The race time is measured by swimmers touching an electronic pad when they reach the line, and many fans believe Cavic actually got their first – but did not hit the pad firmly enough to register his time. 

The secret document that could solve the mystery: Finger prints. 

Why did Ronaldo play in the 1998 World Cup final?

The ‘original’ Ronaldo was the most exciting footballer in the world in 1998, but hours the World Cup final between Brazil and France he mysteriously fell ill. Sources, including teammate Roberto Carlos, reported he suffered some form of seizure. He was quickly taken out of the starting line-up and whisked away to hospital. However, he made a gained recovery and was put back in the team. Ronaldo was a shadow of himself and, many thought, unfit to play, as France won 3-0. 

People have wondered ever since why he played. 

The secret document that could solve the mystery: Ronaldo’s personal diary. 

Ronaldo

Ronaldo was badly out-of-sorts against France

Credit:
AFP

Did Uefa conspire to get Barcelona in the Champions League final?

Nothing condones Chelsea players’ behaviour after their Champions League semi-final defeat to Barcelona in 2009, but they certainly were on the rough end of some bad decisions at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had three plausible penalty shouts turned down by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, with Michael Ballack chasing after him shouting expletives in his face. 

The general secretary of Uefa, David Taylor, was forced to deny accusations of Uefa favouritism towards Barcelona. “If anything it’s a media conspiracy against Uefa,” said Taylor. “It does make me angry. It really annoys me because it’s a load of rubbish.”

The number of red cards received by opponents of Barcelona fueled this spurious theory: Arsenal’s Jens Lehman in the 2006 Champions League final, Inter’s Thiago Motta in the 2009 semi-final, Arsenal’s Robin van Persie in a 2011 last-16 tie and John Terry in a 2012 semi-final to name a few. 

The secret document that could solve the mystery: There are none. A mixture of human error and gamesmanship are to blame. 

Exclusive: Drug cheats will not face time in jail, rules review

The Government has ruled out jailing drugs cheats following a review into whether doping should be criminalised, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch will announce on Tuesday the outcome of a two-year-long look into outlawing the use of performance-enhancing substances. The review, launched at the height of the Russian doping scandal, found there was not a case for the UK joining the likes of France, Italy, Germany and Australia in criminalising doping.

However, it did recommend that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) looks at tightening the rules regarding Therapeutic Use Exemptions, the alleged abuse of which has been highlighted recently.

It also recommended that UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) control officers be given access to all elite sporting events in the UK without prior notice, amid concerns athletes are being made aware when they may face in-competition testing.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said in a statement: “The review has concluded that there is not a case for criminalisation and that the UK has an appropriate regulatory framework to tackle doping. This follows extensive interviews with sports bodies and anti-doping organisations, including the World Anti-Doping Agency and UK Anti-Doping.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch

Sports minister Tracey Crouch explained the decision

“None of those interviewed were in favour of criminalisation. Sports bodies believe that their investigations would be affected by criminalisation of doping in sport as it would slow down their own

processes. The review found that criminalising the act of doping in sport would not add to combating doping in sport with the provisions that already exist sufficient.

“The report found that the strongest deterrent for athletes and their support staff is lengthy bans from their involvement in sport as well as the inevitable loss of earnings as a result of that.”

Crouch said: “The UK is one of the leading nations in the world in anti-doping with robust testing,

information-sharing and investigation processes in place. It was right that we looked into the case for criminalising doping.

“However, the strong consensus is that it would not necessarily aid the fight against drug cheats.

“We are not complacent though which is why there are recommendations in the review that I urge the anti-doping authorities, sports governing bodies and health organisations to consider to further strengthen our approach.” Meanwhile, Crouch refused to join UKAD and other national anti-doping agencies in calling for Russia to be thrown out of February’s Winter Olympics over its state-sponsored cheating at the 2014 Games.

Crouch, who sits on the WADA foundation board, insisted the country’s participation was a matter for the International Olympic Committee.

How Prince Harry is creating the next generation of coaches

Five years after he had watched the Olympic closing ceremony there, Prince Harry was back at the London Stadium. This time he and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at the graduation ceremony of the latest bunch of apprentices from Coach Core, the organisation the Princes had established to create a whole new generation of sports coaches. It was, Harry said, the most appropriate place he could be. Because it was on that occasion, watching the end of London 2012, that he and his brother had come up with an idea that they felt would provide a tangible, lasting Olympic legacy.

“We believe our graduates are the future of coaching,” he said in a speech delivered from a podium which had been built roughly where Usain Bolt crossed the line to win the 100 metres in 2012. “We believe they are not just great coaches, but great mentors and great leaders of their community.”

Watching him speak were some of the 250 young people who have gone through the intensive, year-long apprenticeship programme. People like 18-year-old Alisha Wilson, now working as a full-time swimming coach in Glasgow after graduating in June. Or 19-year-old Muhammed Mumin, who spent a year on Coach Core before heading off to college to study business. Or Andre Nathaniel-George, an 18-year-old from Harrow, who is now working as a tennis coach for the London school sports charity Greenhouse. 

Prince Harry attended a ceremony for 250 young graduates at the London Stadium on Wednesday along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Prince Harry attended a ceremony for 250 young graduates at the London Stadium on Wednesday along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Credit:
Getty images

“It’s been amazing,” he said of the course. “It’s not just the people who you coach who benefit from this. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve become so much more confident, more outgoing. In all honesty, I don’t reckon I’d have been able to stand here and talk to you a year ago.”

The statistics Harry delivered about the programme are impressive indeed. 98 per cent of Coach Core graduates are now in employment or further education, 80 per cent are still engaged in coaching six months after graduating. But the Princes’ purpose in setting up the scheme was not simply to create an employment pathway. They wanted to change the way in which coaching is learned, to ensure that their graduates were as versed in psychology as they were in the technical aspects of their sport. In an era when an England football coach can be sacked for inappropriate behaviour and a Paralympic swimming coach removed from his position for systematic bullying, it is clear there is work to be done.

The Duchess of Cambridge with some of the scheme's graduates

The Duchess of Cambridge with some of the scheme’s graduates

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Getty images

To that end, Coach Core involved elite coaches, asking them to mentor those on the programme. And on the day of the graduation, the London Stadium was given over to sessions being led by Will Greenwood, Judy Murray, Mark Hunter and Max Whitlock. Though in truth some of those taking part were more interested in getting a selfie with West Ham’s Mark Noble and Javier Hernandez, who, along with their manager Slaven Bilic, were interested bystanders, than they were in throwing a rugby ball around with Greenwood. As he watched the sessions unfold, Scott Hann, the coach who had progressed Whitlock from a young hopeful to a double Olympic and world champion gymnast, was particularly impressed by the Coach Core philosophy.

“I’ve seen so many kids damaged by bad coaching,” he said. “The scariest quote I ever heard was that an athlete should be more scared of their coach than of the skill they need to learn, that way they won’t be frightened of learning the skill. When I was first a coach it was the received wisdom. And then we wonder why we didn’t produce a gold medallist before Max.”

West Ham's Javier Hernandez, Mark Noble and Slaven Bilic meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

West Ham’s Javier Hernandez, Mark Noble and Slaven Bilic meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

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Greenwood too insisted that no-one ever improves as a sports person by being shouted at.

“I played under a coach who was literally purple with rage every time we went into the dressing room at half time,” he said. “He’d spray the walls with rage. Did it make me a better player? No. Did it makes us a better team? Of course not.”

Meanwhile, as the royal party joined in the groups, throwing themselves into Judy Murray’s tennis game with particular gusto, Prince William was asked what he believed was the most important thing a coach needs to do.

“Listen,” he said.

It was sound advice.

Travis Pastrana: People think I’m crazy – but the crazy ones don’t make it

This is the type off stuff Travis Pastrana does of a morning. Sitting astride a motorbike on a barge in the middle of the Thames across from the O2 Arena, he starts the engine, pulls back the throttle and proceeds to accelerate up a ramp.

Taking off from the top, he flies high above choppy waters, before landing on another barge, moored far enough away to be almost in another postcode.

As if this is not ludicrous enough, in the process he performs a backflip, spinning the bike through a full 360 degrees, and so becomes the first man to complete such a high-risk stunt.

The last rider, incidentally, who attempted the manoeuvre, back in 2006 in Long Beach Harbour, crashed spectacularly, fracturing several vertebrae.

“Could not have gone better,” Pastrana pronounced after braking with sufficient ferocity to ensure he did not go careering off into the river on completion of the leap.

“We had about a 20mph side wind, so it was like a golf shot, I had to aim a little to the left.”




Daredevil backflips motorcycle between barges on London’s Thames


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Watching his jump, seeing the lack of space he had to work with, the way the two barges bobbed and drifted in the choppy water, the sheer, monumental danger of the act, it was impossible not to reach the conclusion that Pastrana must be bonkers.

Yet speaking to the man widely reckoned the foremost extreme sportsman in the world, he seemed remarkably calm, rational and sane.

“Everyone thinks you have to be crazy,” he suggested, “but the crazy ones don’t make it. You have to be confident in your abilities, you have to enjoy challenging yourself, but what you most have to be is an expert in risk-reward assessment.”

He may make it sound like a branch of accountancy, but Pastrana has been doing ridiculous things on bikes for as long as he can remember.

And he can remember every ridiculous thing with astonishing clarity.

“When you do it, suddenly you are so much more aware of everything around you. Your senses go into overdrive. I could tell you the details of almost everything I’ve done: the temperature, the sights, people’s faces. Even the smell.”

Travis Pastrana - Travis Pastrana: People think I’m crazy – but the crazy ones don’t make it

Pastrana has been in London to promote his show

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Eddie Mulholland

The nephew of a former quarterback for the Denver Broncos, he first took up action sport because, as the self-confessed runt of a ferociously sporting family, the only way he could keep ahead of the rest was atop an engine. 

At first he raced in rallycross, hurtling round America on a bike. Then he discovered his inner Evel Knievel and started doing tricks and leaps. It did not always go well.

So he continued pushing himself to come up with ever more complicated tricks, in the process testing medical resolve.

“I’ve had 32 operations and I’m 33 years old. My aim is to keep my age above my operation count.”

During one period when he was unable to ride through injury, he filmed some of his friends doing tricks. In the days before YouTube, he put together a compilation of their leaps and falls on DVD. 

He quickly discovered he had an international best-seller; Johnny Knoxsville, the founder of Jackass, saw it and put him on MTV. Soon Pastrana had organised a live show he called Nitro Circus, which toured the world doing stunt shows, filled with tricks that would make Knievel’s jaw hit the floor.

Travis Pastrana - Travis Pastrana: People think I’m crazy – but the crazy ones don’t make it

Pastrana enjoys a different view of the Thames as he takes to the air near the O2 Arena

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 AP

“Evel Knievel’s biggest jump was 150ft; there’s now guys regularly back-flipping 150ft,” he explained. “Knievel was a pioneer, he opened the world’s mind to what was possible. Now we have a different challenge.

“It’s actually hard to do something in reality that compares to what you see in video games or in the movies.”

But that is his aim: to make reality more challenging than CGI. His leap 10 days ago was to publicise the fact his team of stunt riders and trick cyclists will be taking over London’s O2 Arena in November next year, in a show that he promises will be rammed full of the improbable. And what he wants to do personally in the midst of the flipping and spinning sounds terrifying enough to freeze the blood.

“The Everest in our sport will always change, it’s always getting higher.

“But right now, my ambition is to do an Aussie roll – a double backflip – on a dirt bike. I reckon it is perfectly possible, but you need height to get the time to execute it, probably 70-80ft. 

“There’s just one problem: if you go that high and you mess up, then bang. It would be pretty terminal. But I don’t intend to mess up.”

If watching him do just the one backflip across the Thames is anything to go by, when he makes his attempt, it will be the most terrifying sporting moment of the year.

Child Protection in Sport chief says loophole must be closed

British sport’s most senior child protection officer has condemned what she branded “a lack of will” to change the law to prevent coaches having sex with 16 and 17-year-olds under their care on the back of football’s paedophile scandal.

Anne Tiivas, the head of the Child Protection in Sport Unit hit out almost nine months after the NSPCC publicly called for the Government to bring the industry into line with the education sector, in which it is illegal for teachers to sleep with pupils under the age of 18.

That came on the back of football’s worst ever scandal, which erupted two months earlier, meaning almost a year has passed in which no legislation has been tabled to tackle some of the issues raised.

Tiivas, who has run the CPSU – a partnership between the NSPCC, Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland and Sport Wales – since 2008, told a Westminster Media Forum on integrity and duty of care in sport: “If you are a teacher today and you have a sexual relationship with an otherwise consenting 16 or 17-year-old, it’s a criminal offence and you will get barred from teaching.

“If you’re a coach with that same child in the evening, that is not a criminal offence.

Tracey Crouch

Tiivas says Tracey Crouch is ‘supportive’ of her ideas

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“We must plug that loophole; it’s completely incongruous. And it’s very difficult to understand the lack of will to tackle that.”

Tiivas revealed the CPSU had been asked to provide examples of cases that would convince the Government of the need to change the law but these had not been enough.

She said: “Our senior policy officer, Ben Sundell, has created a really, really comprehensive paper on what the issues are and case examples. But we are being asked to provide more.”

Tiivas said sports minister Tracey Crouch was “definitely supportive” of a law change but admitted she was in the dark as to where the Ministry of Justice lay on the matter.

“We won’t stop going on about it,” she added.

Asked why the Government had required the CPSU to provide examples of cases from within sport when an existing law recognised relationships between those in authority and under-18s in their care were wrong, Tiivas said: “Ask them that.”

An MOJ spokesperson said: “The protection of children is a priority for this Government and we keep this important area of the law under review.”