Soccer joins battle against doping

Soccer joins battle against doping
Lagniappe Sports

POSTED: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 10:30pm

UPDATED: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 10:34pm

Soccer stars will face a more systematic regime of drug testing following world governing body FIFA's decision to introduce biological profiles for players.

The move comes as global sport is trying to crack down on drug cheats in the wake of recent doping scandals.

Lance Armstrong's loss of his seven Tour de France titles, followed by his admission of using performance-enhancing substances in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, brought the problem of drug use by athletes to worldwide attention.

And last week Australia was stunned by a government report which alleged many professional athletes are using forbidden drugs often supplied by organized crime groups.

In Spain, the Operacion Puerto trial is now underway following an investigation, which began in 2006, into the widespread doping network operated by Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.

Now FIFA is taking steps to address any possible use of banned substances within football, announcing its plan to bring in biological profiles following discussions between president Sepp Blatter and his World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) counterpart John Fahey on Thursday.

The profiles, similar to the biological passports used within cycling, will first be run at June's Confederations Cup -- a warmup tournament for the 2014 World Cup, also being held in Brazil.

Biological profiles are built up by collating an athlete's drug test results over time, therefore making it easier to detect differences which could indicate the use of a banned substance.

"We are very interested in continuing the work on biological profiles," Fahey said in a FIFA statement released Friday.

"WADA is very satisfied with the commitment of FIFA on the biological profiles, which will be run not only at the FIFA World Cup in 2014 but already at the FIFA Confederations Cup in June this year."

In an interview with CNN, Fahey said he saw no reason why football and other major team sports couldn't introduce biological profiles.

"I would like to see, particularly team sports, take up the athlete's biological passport," said Fahey. "There is absolutely no reason why not in the major codes of football, and in the major sporting events right throughout the world.

"That will do a lot to stamp out doping in sport, and most of those major codes can easily afford the cost of running (a biological passport) program and doing it well."

FIFA said a total of 662 urine samples had been taken across different competitions last year, namely the FIFA U-20 women's World Cup, FIFA U-17 women's World Cup, FIFA Futsal World Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Brazil 2014 qualifiers and men's and women's Olympic football tournaments.

"To date, there has been one adverse analytical finding at a FIFA World Cup qualifier in October 2012," read the FIFA statement.

"We have been testing this at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2011 and 2012, we will continue at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 with blood testing unannounced at training camps and games," said FIFA's Medical Committee chairman Dr. Michel D'Hooghe.

"And it's our commitment to have all players participating at the 2014 FIFA World Cup having biological profiles."

FIFA said doping controls will be in place at 114 of the 820 qualifying matches for Brazil 2014 played worldwide, with 456 samples being taken.

"At these selected matches, four players are to undergo a doping control and out of those selected, one is drawn for EPO," continued the statement.

EPO is a hormone which aids the production of red blood cells, helping athletes train harder for longer.

"There is always more which can be done in the fight against doping, but we know FIFA has always been serious in this domain," added Fahey in the statement.

"We think the leagues can complement what FIFA is already doing, but we came here to thank FIFA for its collaboration."

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