UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) spent nearly £600,000 on legal fees in the long-running case involving former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and his cousin Hughie Fury.

The pair accepted backdated two-year bans last December for failing tests for the steroid nandrolone in February 2015, despite continuing to maintain this was the result of eating uncastrated wild boar.

Their case, however, was notable for the long delay between test and charge, which did not come until June 2016, as well as other complicating factors, including Tyson Fury’s mental state.

The final settlement was viewed by some as a compromise between UKAD’s desire to apply the rules and protect clean athletes, on the one hand, and limit their exposure to expensive litigation, on the other.

The risks associated with the latter have now been revealed, as the agency has responded to a Freedom of Information Act request made shortly before December’s verdict by publishing its legal bill.

UKAD paid leading London law firm Bird & Bird £576,587 and spent £1,130 in barrister fees. It also paid out nearly £8,000 for laboratory work, bringing its total costs to £585,659.

Shortly before the verdict was announced, it was reported that UKAD was in talks with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about fears the case could bankrupt the agency.

This report was denied at the time and UKAD has pointed out it should be able to recoup £250,000 of its costs from its legal insurance, reducing the bill to £335,659.

In a statement, UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said, “The money spent in the Fury case shows that if we determine there is evidence of doping, we will pursue a case against an athlete, coach or doctor, regardless of their public profile or status.

“In this case, two anti-doping rule violations were upheld and two-year bans given to each athlete.

“As an arm’s length body of government, we are always careful about how we spend public money, and the consistent support of the UKAD board and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ensures our legal decisions are made for the right reasons and not financial ones.”

Tyson Fury

That said, the FOI request was initially rejected and an appeal against that decision has only been partially upheld. While the agency has reconsidered the decision to keep its legal bill secret, it has refused to reveal its correspondence with DCMS about these costs.

In his reply to the request, UKAD’s director of business services Philip Bunt explained it was the agency’s view that revealing this information “would likely prejudice the effective prosecution” of cases.

Bunt wrote: “This is because it would enable athletes in future cases to employ tactics during the prosecution process to exploit any perceived weaknesses in UKAD’s funding position in order to try to avoid a ban or receive a reduced ban.

“Even if (this strategy) was not successful, it would lead to an increase in time and costs involved in UKAD prosecuting such cases.”

UKAD has recently been given a £6.1million funding boost by DCMS over the next two years, lifting its total annual budget to £11million.