Foot­ball warned over drugs

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — On the grand scale of dop­ing scan­dals in sport, the case of Ma­madou Sakho is un­likely to be among the most shock­ing.

If the Liver­pool de­fender has failed a drugs test for us­ing a ‘fat burner’ that con­tains a banned sub­stance, he could re­ceive any­thing from a rep­ri­mand to a two-year ban depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances.

But foot­ball should not kid it­self into think­ing dop­ing re­mains more of a prob­lem for the tra­di­tional power and en­durance sports.

There is a rea­son why Arsene Wenger has raised his con­cerns this sea­son about dop­ing in foot­ball.

And why Ni­cole Sap­stead, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the UK Anti-dop­ing Agency, sug­gested in Jan­uary that some­thing ‘doesn’t feel right’ about the global game.

It is prob­a­bly be­cause there are so few se­ri­ous dop­ing cases in foot­ball when per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs could be used to such good ef­fect in the top-level pro­fes­sional game.

Not ev­ery­one sees that. Mark Lawren­son re­sponded to news of Sakho’s pos­i­tive last week by point­ing out that drugs will never im­prove a player’s abil­ity to trap a ball or shoot with more ac­cu­racy.

But if they im­prove en­durance, speed and power, as well as the abil­ity to re­cover from fa­tigue and in­jury, the ben­e­fits to a foot­ball team are scream­ingly ob­vi­ous.

And in no other sport, cer­tainly in Europe, are the stakes higher or the re­wards greater.

As for­mer Ger­man in­ter­na­tional foot­baller Paul Bre­it­ner once said: “The foot­baller who be­lieves that with dop­ing he can keep his start­ing place, who can con­trib­ute more to vic­tory and can earn more money — why would he not use dop­ing? The mo­ti­va­tion to dope is the same for a foot­baller as it is for a cy­clist.”

In Wenger’s opin­ion, test­ing in foot­ball is in­ad­e­quate and per­haps ex­plains why there are so few se­ri­ous cases of dop­ing in the sport.

Arse­nal’s man­ager finds it a con­cern that play­ers, with the ex­cep­tion of Diego Maradona in 1994, never fail drugs tests at the World Cup.

“It is very dif­fi­cult for me to be­lieve that you have 740 play­ers at the World Cup and you come out with zero prob­lems,” he said in that in­ter­view with L’equipe.

“Math­e­mat­i­cally, that hap­pens ev­ery time. But sta­tis­ti­cally, even for so­cial drugs, it looks like we would do bet­ter to go deeper.”

A ba­sic anal­y­sis of the most re­cent fig­ures on the World Anti-dop­ing Agency web­site cer­tainly sug­gests foot­ball is not im­mune and that not ev­ery­one gets away with it.

Of the 31,242 sam­ples taken in world foot­ball in 2014, there were 144 ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ings.

Com­pare that to ath­let­ics — 25,830 sam­ples and 261 AAFS — or cycling — 22,471 sam­ples and 221 AAFS — and peo­ple seem to be be­ing caught, even if an AAF does not al­ways equate to a dop­ing vi­o­la­tion.

Over the years there has been ev­i­dence of dop­ing in foot­ball, if not al­ways in­dis­putable proof. The Hun­gar­i­ans were sus­pi­cious of their Ger­man con­querors in the 1954 World Cup fi­nal af­ter syringes and nee­dles were found in their dress­ing room. The team doc­tor would later claim th­ese were noth­ing more than Vi­ta­min C in­jec­tions.

There have been nan­drolone pos­i­tives, with for­mer Manch­ester United de­fender Jaap Stam among those to have been found with traces of the banned steroid in his sys­tem when play­ing for Lazio.

And there was the Ju­ven­tus dop­ing scan­dal of the late 90s, when in­ves­ti­ga­tors raided the club to find 281 dif­fer­ent types of drug in a med­i­cal depart­ment com­pared to ‘ a small hos­pi­tal’.

Ric­cardo Agri­cola, the club doc­tor, re­ceived a sus­pended 22-month jail sen­tence for sup­ply­ing Ju­ven­tus play­ers with per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drugs, only to later have his con­vic­tion over­turned on ap­peal. The play­ers, next Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte among them, al­ways de­nied cheat­ing.

The blood sam­ples at the cen­tre of Spain’s Opera­cion Puerto scan­dal could have mas­sive im­pli­ca­tions for foot­ball. Eufemi­ano Fuentes, the doc­tor at the cen­tre of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, once told a French news­pa­per that he had worked with foot­ballers as well as cy­clists.

Only re­cently, a Lon­don-based doc­tor was filmed telling undercover Sun­day Times re­porters that he has pro­vided banned sub­stances to Premier League foot­ballers. As yet there is no ev­i­dence.

Could a state-spon­sored dop­ing pro­gramme in Rus­sia ex­tend to foot­ball? Dick Pound, the for­mer WADA pres­i­dent who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian dop­ing, said ‘it would be naive to think it was only Rus­sia and naive to think it’s only ath­let­ics’.

The coach of the Rus­sian foot­ball team is Leonid Slut­sky, who jug­gles the role with his po­si­tion as the coach of CSKA Moscow.

Slut­sky was in charge at CSKA when two of their Rus­sian in­ter­na­tion­als — one of whom still plays for Rus­sia — failed drugs tests af­ter a 3-3 draw with Manch­ester United in Novem­ber 2009. — Daily Mail

Liver­pool de­fender Ma­madou Sakho.

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