Football must be vigilant after drugs test failures
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.