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Football must be vigilant after drugs test failures

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Jack Ross | 18:46 UK time, Monday, 7 March 2011

The issue of improving your team's or one of your player's displays has long been a point of discussion for football fans. However, in the present-day football world, the mention of the term performance-enhancing would most likely cause consternation among support, such is its association with the failing of a dope test by a player.

The debate over the relevance, methods and judgements of drug testing in football and the punishments that can follow has heightened significantly in the wake of the past week's events surrounding Simon Mensing and Kolo Toure.

The headlines created by these respective players' failure to pass a drug test has highlighted both the rarity of such happenings in football and the apparently innocent ignorance most players have with regards to prohibited substances.

Before I go on to discuss these points, I must say that I am delighted to see Simon back playing as, knowing him on a personal level and having been a team-mate for a number of years, I am aware of his character and his dedication to the game and appreciate how difficult the past month has been for him.

The fact that this could happen to a player in the Scottish game begs the question of whether clubs do enough to educate their players about the regulations surrounding drug testing and whether they do enough to keep players regularly informed of those substances that are banned. I would suggest that they don't, as often sessions that provide this type of information are considered low priority by clubs (and players) in comparison to training sessions or tactical meetings.

In my experience, there should be a greater onus on the provision of adequate up-to-date information, which will only help the avoidance of a situation where a player is unknowingly ingesting a prohibited substance.

Having said this, in an age where players are far more aware of the importance of nutrition, vitamin supplements, etc, in adding to their overall physical condition, there should be a desire from them to demand or source the appropriate information. In doing so, they would be protecting themselves from unwittingly failing a test and being banned from the game.

At this point, it is worth considering whether or not a football performance could be significantly improved by the use of banned substances. I accept that an individual could become faster or stronger as a result of choosing to use performance enhancing drugs - and examples in other sports, such as sprinting and weightlifting, show that they can emerge victorious simply because of the edge they achieved from cheating.

However, in football, would being marginally quicker or stronger make a player better? There is an argument that it would, as there are some who believe the game is now more about athleticism than ability. However, surely the use of drugs in football would only ever become a major issue if something is created that improves a player's vision and touch, or gives him the ability to go past three opponents and curl the ball into the top corner.

This is not an attempt to dismiss the use of drugs, as undoubtedly the discovery of recreational substances or those that are undeniably present as a consequence of deliberately aiming for a prohibited physical advantage, would deserve lengthy if not lifetime bans from the game.

However, in the aftermath of the recent publicity, there has to be an acknowledgement that, by in large, Scottish football is a clean sport, but it must also serve as a reminder that perhaps more has to be done by everyone in the game to ensure that this deserved reputation remains intact.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This is not an attempt to dismiss the use of drugs, as undoubtedly the discovery of recreational substances or those that are undeniably present as a consequence of deliberately aiming for a prohibited physical advantage, would deserve lengthy if not lifetime bans from the game.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Thorny issue.

    Agree with bans for deliberate breach of rules where this impacts on performance but the rules look draconian in clear cases of accidental use because of a lack of information - Alain Baxter and Willie Johnson come to mind here.

    But you also say
    -------------------------------------------
    I think the main issue is performance enhancing drugs and these and recreational drugs are not necessarily the same thing. I think there should be bans for performance enhancing drugs but NOT for recreational drugs (if they are not performance enhancing).
    --------------------------------------------

    If your arguement is that footballers should not be taking illegal recreational drugs that is an employee-employer contractual issue obviously but outwith that I'm not sure that the doping testers should be acting as policemen. The action of FIFA for example, in handing out bans to players such as Canniga and Maradona for cocaine use was deplorable as there were no employer-employee contractual issues involved and the drug could hardly be described as performance enhancing.

    And lets face it alcohol is probably still the main drug of choice among footballers. It is also a recreational drug and rated as more harmful (both at the individual level and the collective) than many illegal recreational drugs by the leading UK scientific advisors. So when you say 'recreational drugs' you really only mean some of these.

  • Comment number 2.

    #1
    Apologies Jack my I misquoted you in my use of the dashes!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Drug-use is rife in certain sports in which may it might enhance performance, less so in others; but WADA et al seem to have a one-size-fits-all, NOTHING is more important than drug-control, approach which is often inappropriate and disproportionate. Contador may still be banned from cycling for a trace of a banned substance (allegedly from tainted meat) at about 2 per cent of the level regarded as failing a drug test. I recall many cases (but don't immediately remember the specifics) of top level sportsmen with an intense, globe-trotting, match schedule who must always alert the authorities as to where they are - a huge imposition - and have been forced out of bed in the early hours when recovering from a tournament or long flight to be drug-tested, with a reasonable refusal being treated as a failed test. We need some balance here, and suspending Toure seems over the top.

    As for non-performance-enhancing social drugs, an employer in a field attracting huge attention and publicity might wish to impose conditions in a contract/club policy - as it might affect the club image or lead to distractions, as well as negatively affecting performance - but it should not be a concern for sports' anti-doping bodies.

    There have been many adverse incidents involving Australian sportsmen in recent years, particularly in rugby league and AFL, almost all have involved drinking alcohol into the early hours. That's not a WADA issue - although it's very damaging for the sports concerned, many parents here confine their kids to soccer, and soccer crowds oftem involve family outings - but a trace of a banned substance in a legal dietary supplement is. Again, a sense of proportion is needed.

  • Comment number 4.

    What a poor column. Why else would a player take a banned substance if not to improve his performance? Why shouldn't he be banned simply because of intent, even if no advantage was found?

  • Comment number 5.

    "However, surely the use of drugs in football would only ever become a major issue if something is created that improves a player's vision"

    Mushrooms and LSD will do the trick... ;)

  • Comment number 6.

    A blog full of holes.

    How about the infinite amount of footballers who were rejected within the professional game for being, too weak, too slow, having poor stamina.

    Would Nikolai Zigic and Shola Ameobi be top class players without their natural physical attributes, because they certainly aren't wonderfully gifted footballers.

    That's the players who get it naturally. To take drugs to enable the body to function in a way that natural sources won't allow will always be cheating.

    I suggest you air your views with any athlete (and this includes footballers) who were done out of a lifetime of hard work and dedication by someone who cut corners and cheated to get ahead.

    I'm sure you wouldn't see the lighter side if somebody operating on performance enhancing drugs, with the aggressive attributes that fall as a by product, slamming into you in a tackle with their unnaturally built muscular frame, at unnaturally high speed and breaking your leg?

  • Comment number 7.

    Rob04 wrote:

    the rules look draconian in clear cases of accidental use because of a lack of information - Alain Baxter and Willie Johnson come to mind here.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Agree with that, when you hear stories of people testing positive for substances such as those found in cough medicine it tars athletes with the same brush as those that take hard steroids etc.

    And that invariably leads to hoards of away fans screaming "druggy" abuse at you (the ever-sharp Hibs fans at Mensing last week) when all you're guilty of is unwittingly ingesting something you believe is good for you. I reckon the authorities should look at re-vamping what can and can't be consumed.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    "I recall many cases (but don't immediately remember the specifics) of top level sportsmen with an intense, globe-trotting, match schedule who must always alert the authorities as to where they are - a huge imposition - and have been forced out of bed in the early hours when recovering from a tournament or long flight to be drug-tested, with a reasonable refusal being treated as a failed test."

    Are you sure? My understanding is that sportsmen only have to advise the authorities of their whereabouts for one hour of each day so that they know where to find them should they wish to test them.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    there's a saying any supplements that are worth taking are illegal; the legal supplements aren't worth taking at all.

  • Comment number 12.

    A topic that is absolutely certain to split the jury. Hard liners on both sides wont give an inch and ironically the argument is fairly compelling on both sides. Personally I'm with the moderates who have posted in that deliberate use of performance enhaning drugs designed to gain advantage (and lets face it, the ain't the ones found in well known cold remedies) are absolutely unacceptable. However, where an athlete can demonstrate drugs entering their system through incorrect advice, accidental use of an inhaler with a slight difference between the UK and US ingredients etc should, subject to an expert panel, be cut some slack. I just cannot believe for example Alain Baxter got any real advantage form a couple of sniffs of de-congestant. No doubt the hawks would rather they hung out to dry - shame really

  • Comment number 13.

    Drugs are just a side show.

    The real issue for football is corruption, against which there is a distinct lack of vigilance.

    http://nonleaguematters.co.uk/forum/gforum.cgi?post=309896#309896

  • Comment number 14.

    Jack,

    I agree with you that club's (and the relevant FA's) need to provide more help and information to players about this subject (also players theselves need to take an interest)

    However I disagree with your conclusion that performance enhancers don't make a player better
    eg1 player takes a banned drug that lets him run faster. He can now beat more players to the ball so gets more crosses into the box or wins more tackles
    eg2 player takes a banned drug that makes him stronger. Now in those 50-50 challenges he stays on his feet and the other player falls over instead of the other way around
    eg3 player takes a banned drug that increases his stamina/endurance. In the 80th minute the player he is playing against is more tired than him because of this, so he can now beat the player and this could result in a goal

  • Comment number 15.

    It is all very well saying things like "I don't believe a few sniffs of a decongestant helped him perform better", or that it is not or should not be the plase of the drug testers to test for or report n the use of recreatonal drugs.

    The fact is that as long as the use of any substance is deemed illegal, whether it helps the athlete or not, the ingestion of that subject is illegal and subject to punishment.

    End of story.

  • Comment number 16.

    Thank you as always for all your comments.

    I have enjoyed reading the different views on what is a relatively untouched subject in football debate.

    In response to some of the comments, I was not offering the opinion that it is acceptable to illegally improve performance but rather how much fans believe that the game is now growing more dependent upon physical attributes rather than talent and skill.

    If the view is that it is the former, then the possible problem of players looking for an illegal advantage may become greater.

    There is defenitely a need within the game for greater, clearer and updated information-the question becomes one of who that responsibilty falls upon

  • Comment number 17.

    There is defenitely a need within the game for greater, clearer and updated information-the question becomes one of who that responsibilty falls upon
    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    Correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding of the current position Jack is that the responsibility lies with the sportsman or woman taking the substance.

    This relies heavily on people being given the correct advice on products by both manufactuers and coaches, especially on products with different ingredients across international borders.

    I think that position is wrong because it can lead to clear accidental cases in the example of Baxter and Johnson and I'm in the moderate camp on this one along with Uriah #12 and there should be some leeway. In these cases I still fail to understand how there could have been any enhancement of performance by their actions.

    In other cases like Linford Christie the man who got faster with age and recorded his best times with that well you can draw your own conclusions.

  • Comment number 18.

    Difficult to knwo what more measures the football clubs can put in place to stop this happening - whilst KT is out City are comitted to paying him an absolute fortune in wages, so they DO need some protection.

 

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