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United Kingdom-London: Sport-related services
Contract award notice
Results of the procurement procedure
Section I: Contracting authority
Section II: Object
Laboratory Testing – UK Athlete Blood and Urine Testing
United Kingdom Anti-Doping Ltd (UKAD) is a non-departmental public body accountable to Parliament through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. UKAD is the UK National Anti-Doping Organisation and provides testing services as well as case management, anti-doping intelligence and education services. UKAD requires the services of a laboratory to analyse UK athletes’ urine and blood samples in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code. After conducting further consultation with the market, UKAD believed that only one entity could fulfil UKAD’s requirements in relation to this contract, the King’s College London Drug Control Centre (DCC). To that end, UKAD entered into a negotiation with DCC pursuant to regulation 32(2)(b)(ii) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
UKAD is an active participant in the global fight against doping in sport and is the national body responsible for creating a UK-wide environment of confidence in clean sport. In the UK, UKAD ensures that sports bodies comply with the World Anti-Doping Code through implementation and management of the UK’s National Anti-Doping Policy.
A significant part of ensuring such compliance is the implementation of a robust testing regime. Since 2009, UKAD has outsourced its blood and urine testing requirements in respect of professional athletes to the King’s College London Drug Control Centre (DCC), the only laboratory in the UK which holds a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accreditation. This arrangement expired in March 2021 and therefore UKAD wished to finalise its arrangements in respect of the next iteration of this contract.
In terms of the scope of the new contract, this is made up of an initial duration of 3 years, followed by the option to renew the contract for a further three one-year extensions. In terms of contract value, UKAD estimated that this will be approximately GBP 2 000 000 per year. In light of the fact that:
(i) a laboratory utilised to perform such testing must hold a WADA accreditation (as stipulated by WADA). In the event that UKAD had undertaken an open competition, candidates would have been required to self-certify that if identified as the successful bidder, the laboratory from which the services would be performed (a laboratory which must be based within the UK as explained below) would have in place a current WADA accreditation at contract award. UKAD understood that securing accreditation can be prohibitively expensive when compared against the contract value and further, that the process can take as long as 2 years to complete. This would not have left sufficient time for a non-accredited supplier to mobilise between contract award and commencement of the services; and
(ii) such laboratory would have needed to be located in the UK to ensure that tests could be transported quickly from the site at which the sample is taken from the athlete to the laboratory (to avoid degradation of the sample), UKAD’s view was that no other entity, other than DCC, could fulfil the contract requirements. To that end, UKAD utilised the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice to agree arrangements with DCC for the next iteration of the contract, in accordance with regulation 32(2)(b)(ii) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCRs) (i.e. competition is absent for technical reasons).
For reference, prior to commencing the procedure described above, UKAD published a prior information notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (reference: 2020/S 247-615593) to establish whether any alternative/viable suppliers exist. UKAD also published a Voluntary ex ante transparency notice in the Official Journal of the European Union under the same reference. As a result of those exercises, UKAD was confident it had established that only DCC could fulfil the contract requirements.
UKAD set out its further analysis in the notices, so that readers had a fuller understanding of why UKAD believed that the circumstances justified use of the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice.
As described in Section II.2.4) above, UKAD believed that in respect of this opportunity, competition is absent for technical reasons, as:
WADA accreditation would be a pre-requisite.
The services must be performed within the UK – UKAD was aware that there are other suppliers outside of the UK which provide similar services to DCC and whose laboratories hold WADA accreditation. However, due to the
Section IV: Procedure
UKAD believed that in respect of this opportunity, competition is absent for technical reasons, as:
The services must be performed within the UK – UKAD was aware that there are other suppliers outside of the UK which provide similar services to DCC and whose laboratories hold WADA accreditation. However, due to the timescales involved in transporting blood samples to a laboratory outside of the UK (which essentially spoil after a period of 48 hours), UKAD believed it would be impossible to work with such suppliers in practice. This was a particular concern post 1 January 2021, where it appeared very likely that delays at the UK border could result in the degradation of blood samples. Such samples can also be taken at various locations within the UK, not all of which are within easy access to a port. If a sample was analysed after the expiry of the minimum timescales stipulated by WADA, this could have resulted in UKAD being unable to prosecute an athlete notwithstanding the fact that there were indications that they may have utilised performance enhancing drugs. It seemed likely therefore that a non-UK based supplier, interested in this opportunity, would have been required to establish a laboratory within the UK and obtain a separate WADA accreditation in respect of that laboratory to perform the contract. For the reasons stated above, UKAD believed that it would not have been commercially viable, or possible within the timescales, for a non-UK based supplier to adopt this approach.
Separation of blood samples and urine samples: while the timescales related to analysing urine samples are much more flexible, UKAD would not have been able to separately award contracts for blood sample analysis and urine sample analysis. This was because in order to receive WADA accreditation, a laboratory must undertake a programme which analyses at least 3 000 samples per year. If a laboratory analysed only one type of sample (e.g. blood samples), the quantity would not be sufficient to meet the minimum 3 000 samples required. While there may be certain periods when the laboratory may have been testing a high number of blood samples which may exceed 3 000, this would have constituted an exceptional scenario. Therefore, UKAD would not have been able to guarantee a minimum sample volume would be processed through the supplier’s (UK) laboratory, in order for that laboratory to retain its WADA accreditation. As a result, dividing the contract into two separate contracts (i.e. one contract to process blood samples and another contract to process urine samples) did not present a viable option for UKAD.
In terms of the consequences of utilising a laboratory which was not accredited by WADA, or the WADA accreditation was withdrawn, this would have invalidated the UK's testing programme and it is highly likely that the UK would not have been in a position to host international sporting events which in turn, would have given rise to significant economic and political consequences.
Section V: Award of contract
Section VI: Complementary information