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Blatter blunders while Wada walks the beat

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Matt Slater | 23:03 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

I'm going to say this loud and proud: Fifa boss Sepp Blatter is completely right.

Unaccustomed as I am to being on the same side of an argument as world football's grand poobah - a man who has likened multi-millionaire Cristiano Ronaldo's life to "slavery" and believes female footballers should wear tighter shorts - I think he is spot on when he claims the World Anti-Doping Agency is acting like a "police" organisation.

The difference between us, however, is that I think this is a good thing.

So when I heard Wada president John Fahey say football will not be exempted from key parts of the anti-doping rulebook I was as pleased as Blatter will be peeved.

John Fahey

What Fahey actually said was that there would be "no Lex Fifa" but this sounded to most of us like a character from Dream Team so the former Australian politician had to spell it out more simply: there will be no concessions for football.

Fahey's "reiteration" of his organisation's position came during a media conference call on Monday that followed an eventful weekend at Wada Towers.

The occasion was the first meeting this year of Wada's executive committee and foundation board, and the agenda was, well... full.

Among the items on the Montreal menu were the patchy implementation of Wada's rules across the globe, its finances and major American team sports' refusal to join the anti-doping party.

But these were mere nibbles compared to the porterhouse steak that is the row about Wada's "whereabouts" rules.

Whereabouts is the tracking system that enables drug-testers to perform no-notice, out-of-competition dope tests - the kind of tests that really catch and deter.

The system calls for athletes to make themselves available to testers for one hour a day, between 0600 and 2300, 365 days a year and for three months in advance. They do this via the internet and their information can be updated by email or text message.

Whereabouts controversies have made headlines since the system was introduced in 2004 but, generally speaking, it is thought to have worked pretty well and most would agree it is an improvement on what went before.

But this year the consensus has fallen apart for two different but related reasons.
The first is that on 1 January Wada introduced a new version of its framework document, the World Anti-Doping Code, of which whereabouts is a key plank.

To you and me, the code is the anti-doping rulebook and it covers everything from the list of banned drugs, to how an athlete gets dispensation from these rules for genuine medical problems.

Wada would argue that, by and large, the changes it was introducing were a combination of tweaks based on the experience of the previous five years. So, for example, the maximum penalty for a really shocking doping violation was stretched from a career-inconveniencing two years to a career-threatening four years.

This was almost universally welcomed (some wanted a life ban) but that cannot be said for every change, particularly those to do with whereabouts.

I've written about these before, so I won't repeat myself, but suffice it to say these changes make life more complicated for the majority of athletes who were already on the programme.

I've also already written I think Wada should reconsider these changes, although I do have a degree of sympathy for its point that these reforms deserve a chance before U-turns are discussed.

Where I have enormous sympathy with Wada is on the second issue that has threatened the consensus this year, and that is bringing sports previously outside the system on board.

So whereas pre-2009 whereabouts mainly covered Olympic athletes, from 1 July the Premier League's finest would also be subject to the occasional surprise call from drug-testers.

Fair enough, say most footballers, we're against cheats as much as the next Olympian, but 365 days a year? Does that mean you could turn up for a sample when I'm in the Bahamas?

They (and their clubs) have also expressed concerns about being caught in the wrong place at the right time, or vice-versa, and finding themselves in the same predicament as Christine Ohuruogu.

The solution they have offered to the testers is come find us at the training ground: we're there most days, 48 weeks a year.

Sepp Blatter

Hence luminaries like Blatter and Uefa sidekick Michel Platini becoming the most passionate advocates of the summer holiday since Cliff Richard and Una Stubbs.

There is a slight problem, though: this isn't the same system everybody else is following and it isn't really no-notice, out-of-competition testing, which defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

And Blatter's passionate defence of a footballer's right to four weeks of uninterrupted golf and jet-skiing has been weakened by his presence on Wada's board: why didn't he speak up earlier?

Wada's problem, however, is that it hasn't just been taking flak from football, which is, after all, still an Olympic sport. The forces lined up against it have ranged from some of the biggest names in tennis (another sport new to whereabouts), Russian pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva and the Article 29 working party of the European Commission.

Throw in a legal challenge to whereabouts on privacy grounds from a group of Belgian sports pros, and alarming reports from Spain about legislation that would effectively sink whereabouts, and it has seemed the entire global anti-doping movement was about to unravel.

So it is to Wada's credit that it has stuck to its guns.

The EU's data protection watchdogs have gained the assurances they needed in the form of a few small changes to one of the five standards that make up the code (hardly the embarrassing climbdown that some have claimed, or if it is it's far too dull for me to pick out - I like my embarrassing climbdowns to be a bit more bare-faced).

The Belgian challenge is going nowhere fast and the Spanish alarm was based largely on an inaccurate report of the government's intentions.

Which leaves only the assorted grumbles, some more valid than others, from the various sportsmen and women affected by whereabouts.

They will continue, no doubt, but Fahey has already demonstrated he doesn't seem to mind playing the "bad cop" when he thinks there's a principle worth policing.

And, to return to my opening point, I think he's right.

Because buried beneath all of Blatter's blathering, the EU's pen-rattling and whichever tennis player is bleating about their human rights this week, there are a few important recent milestones to note.

The first is that the five remaining Olympic sports to fully sign up to Wada's rules are now "code compliant", and the second is that the product of all this debate about whereabouts has been to reinforce its legal basis as a "proportionate response" to doping.

But my favourite milestone is the fact that 2008 was the first year Wada, which got started in 2000, ever received 100% of its promised budget, a budget that comes 50/50 from the International Olympic Committee and world governments.

That $25.3m seems a tiny sum when you consider the huge amount of money professional sport generates - and possibly lose if the general public stops believing in it - but an international institution that gets everybody to pay up on time must be doing something right.

Blatter might want to think about that next time he moans about sport's bobbies on the beat.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Utterly confusing and ridiculous!!

    Why are WADA so adamant to administer a 365/24/7 policy? Surely they can test anybody they want at reasonable notice anyway?

    And what's the hurry? As far as my fairly limited knowledge about performance enhancing drugs goes, most of them can be traced weeks or even months after the user has stopped taking them, so why jump blindside on someone to take a sample?


    No issues with the underlying principle though. Every competitive sports-person should be subject to tests whenever deemed necessary...

  • Comment number 2.

    When will Blatter and the like realise their job is to make sport better and fairer for fans.

    Blatter and his cronies spend all their time pandering to overpaid, spoilt footballers and looking after big clubs at the expense of clubs further down the pyramid (without whom football will colapse).

    As if his frankly ridiculous views and opinions on other subjects were not bad enough, now he threatens to take Football down the route of american sports where pumped up steroid abbusers devalue te history of the sports they play by breaking long held records not by skill but by cheating.

    Thanks Sepp, thanks alot.

  • Comment number 3.

    It is completely draconian for sportsmen and women to have to constantly advise WADA, every day of their careers, as to their whereabouts. It's like living in a police state. Obviously, there are some sports in which taking performance-enhancing drugs is very widespread. In others - cricket and football for instance? - the nature of the sport is such that drugs play little or no part, they're not a big issue. Treating all sports harshly because some are drug-ridden is absurd overkill. EUFA and FIFA should resist, if football gets kicked out of the Olympics as a result, that's their loss, the World Cup outranks the Olympics.

  • Comment number 4.

    If you tell me i have to tell people where i am every day for 365 days i would freakout and consider leaving sport......
    Its bad and WADA should be punished for even thinking this kind of a thing
    I urge all my comment readers to think if that be done to you wont you feel tied up?
    Like there was no other way to do this kind of testing??
    How about tracking the player?
    Or having fixed doped tests once a period (that maybe a week a month etc) for everybody and t makes life easy
    I just think WADA is against human rights !!

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    WADA is spot on.

    We could of course do it in a gentlemanly way and send them a letter, "Excuse me old chap, can you confirm you aren't taking any performance enhancing drugs. Please reply as soon as possible but feel free to leave it until after you holiday"

    Sorry cheats don't work that way. No you can't always detect drugs later. If people know testers are coming they can delay to minimise detection chances and also take other drugs as masking agents.

    WADA is doing this because they KNOW the system ONLY works if the test is completely unannounced. Now there is a point that team sports don't have the same benefits from drugs as individual strength and endurance sports but it doesn't alter the basic principle. By the was the World CUP is football's main event and it has NO place in the Olympics anyway in my opinion but that is another debate. Same for Tennis. It IS a tough regime BUT these are elite athletes and are well paid for what they do and this should be part of the deal to get that money. Football says come to training grounds. Well great so make sure that your whereabouts state your training ground at a time you are there. You know the fixtures so when you will be away.

    As for allowing them to have a holiday. Great so why not book 4 weeks away at your Performance Enhancing Drug clinic in the sun!! No hiding place for drugs cheats must be the way forward.

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

    It's really an easy system, especially for team sports. As footballers have pointed out, if they are going to be at the training ground most days then ask the testers to come at that time. They have the choice of saying when they want to be tested, all they have to do is then stick to that. If the poor diddums get interrupted on their holidays once or twice, tough luck.

    As pointed out by the previous poster, other systems give far too much leeway for cheats to systematically avoid getting caught.

  • Comment number 9.

    If you do any sort or reading around this subject, you'll know that giving any sort of notice allows dopers to manipulate their blood and/or urine content... for example, within 30 minutes Haemocrit levels (amongst many other things) can be reduced. Hence the fuss when it appeared that Lance Armstrong "delayed" his tests by 20 minutes or more in France recently.

    A comprehensive doping regime relies much more on "out of competition" doping than "in-competition" (you'd need to be quite mad to dope during competition now!) This is why unannounced, out-of-competition testing is essential, and why the bleating of footballers & tennis players should be ignored.

  • Comment number 10.

    We pay vast sums of money to watch these sportsmen and women many of whom earn in a week what it takes the average person 2+ years to earn. For the priviledge of earning that sort of money declaring where your going to be for one hour on any given day of the week is not much to ask!

    Many people are subject to not just random drug testing but also random alchohol testing in their jobs, failure of which will result in them not just being suspended but losing their jobs.

    Unfortunatley if you want to make a living from professional sport, drug testing comes with the territory ..... and if they don't like it jump as there are many others who will gladly step up and fill there boots.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think that there are real differences between sports that have had significant drugs problems such as athletics, weight-lifting and cycling and other sports such as football and rugby.

    Where a sport is very significantly measured in absolute terms such as an individual's speed or power and the line between success and failure are often incredibly small margins, you will always have people seeking to gain an unfair advantage. In these sports, the advantages gained from taking banned substances make a very material difference to the individual's success or failure.

    In other sports, this line between success and failure is governed is far less determined by "simple" factors such as speed or power but by individual skill as well as so many other factors such as team mates, referees and their assistants, playing surfaces, even the influence of the crowd.

    In such cases, do we really need to impose exactly the same restrictions on the participants?

    In addition to this, with retrospective testing, is it so important to have such a testing infrastructure and regime?

    I think the battle against drugs in sport is a war that cannot be won; battles may be won, but never the war.

  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry HRDC99... if you think there are any major sports that don't have a drug problem you're being just a touch naive... high profile drugs cases can indicate that a particular sport has a problem, OR just that they are active in seeking it out. Football in particular has been great at saying "we don't have a problem, therefore we don't need this nuisance of testing...." errr... what about the top club (not named as I don't want my post removed!) that was openly engaged in blood-spinning, because it wasn't banned in football (even though almost every other sport had banned it) What about the footballers (& tennis players) named in Operacion Puerto..?

    Wherever there are large rewards (financial or glory) there will be those tempted to gain an advantage - seemingly intelligent people who place their health at great risk.... in any sport...

  • Comment number 13.

    Just re-iterating some of the points already made:

    There is no drug which makes you a better cricketer. There is no drug that makes you a better footballer (ok so u could bulk up a bit but that would only have a minimal effect on your overall ability).

    Therefore there is no need to tarnish these "skill" sports with the same rules as the "endurance / physical" sports.

    Football is the biggest sport in the world and it is nonsense that it should have to be adhere to a set of rules designed (correctly) to catch out drug cheats in other, minority sports.

    I've read your profile Matt, so I'm not surprised that you'd want the WADA drug-ruling to apply to all sports, as it makes Athletics seem more important but I think as a professional journalist you should have a greater all-round awareness. The olympics is mainly about enthusiastic (middle-class) amateurs and the general public don't actually care about it other that once every 4 years. You just need to see the viewing figures for cycling meetings, athletic grand prix's, etc, to realise that.

    Trying to equate that with fully professional sports, watched and supported by thousands of people week-in, week-out, is quite frankly ridiculous.

    Btw, slightly off-piste comment here, but I don't think that people using recreational drugs should be punished with these same rules. There should be a clear distinction between "cheating" (i.e. performance enhancing drugs in athletics, cycling, rowing, etc, etc) and someone using cocaine or cannabis, or even alcohol. Therefore WADA should not consider this as part of their remit.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't see what the fuss is about. My ex-girlfriend was a RYA funded sailor, who was on the olympic program. She had to do exactly the same, state where and when she's be for only 1 HOUR a day. This usually was 6am-7am wherever she was sleeping (hers, mine, hotel on holiday etc) and could be changed via phone or the internet. It was really easy to do.

    Now why is is so hard for a footballer to do the same? They know when and where training is going to be day, they know where they're going to be on match day and they know they're more than likely going to be at home on a sunday morning. And surely if plans change a quick phone call to their agent and their form would be changed.

    If olympic sports men and women can manage it, I'm sure the footballers can do it too.

  • Comment number 15.

    WADA are spot on. End of

  • Comment number 16.

    Maybe no drug to make you a "better footballer", but plenty (including EPO & steroids) that will improve your endurance & strength... we're always being told that footballers are fitter & faster than ever before... are you not the least bit suspicicious that some of them might be using illegal substances to achieve this...?

    There's plenty of evidence, for example in the list of names implicated in Operacion Puerto, that footballers are no better than anyone else in seeking to gain the maximum advantage from whatever they can. Obviously not all footballers, but then it's not all athletes, cylists or rowers either...

    There is no sport I can think of (except maybe chess, as it seems that's designated a "sport" now) where there is not potential for advantage to be gained by the use of drugs... saying "we don't have a problem, therefore we don't need testing" is, as I have said before, just being naive...

  • Comment number 17.

    Footballers are hounded and followed absolutely everywhere, infintely m ore so than any other athlete, i don't think it's unreasonable that they have a little privacy for a few weeks a year to be honest. Test them as often as they want during the season.

  • Comment number 18.

    Clearly all sports have their problems and football should stop thinking of it's self as special, I think that for the amount they get paid they should be able to say where they are and if they catch a few players it'll be all worth it,

  • Comment number 19.

    Ventoux

    I agree that just because there have not been many cases in a particular sport that does not inherently mean that there is no problem within that sport. The will of the sporting authorities to test makes a massive difference - look at Baseball, for example.

    I have to say I am not particularly concerned over the athletes' health over the use of drugs. No-one forces them to take these substances and few that take drugs would be able to claim that they were unaware that they were running risks in doing so.

    What concerns me more is the fraud that are perpretated on the public.

    The success and the rewards that go with it that are enjoyed by these athletes and the betrayal of trust from their supporters and the public.

    I believe that in athletics and other sports the use of drugs is far more significant in determining success and failure. This, therefore, determines the respect, affection, adulation and rewards enjoyed as a result of success. For these sports, it is critical for their very survival to address the problem of drugs, as the erosion of public confidence in the athletes' successes destroys the very fabric of their sport.

    If the public loses trust, they will lose interest, if they lose interest, the sport loses followers, supporters and participants, if they lose followers, supporters and participants, they will lose advertisers and sponsors, if they lose sponsors, they lose money and funding. If they lose all of these things, the sport is all but lost.

    In sports where the use of drugs is significantly less likely (not impossible, I grant you) in determining success, I question the need to have such stringent regulations.

    Football has much bigger problems to address than drugs compared to athletics and cycling and I firmly believe that the focus of the authorities should be elsewhere.

    The lack of respect for officials, the crippling debts being run up by clubs, the endemic cheating - shirt-pulling, diving etc, racism and hooliganism are all far more important to football that drugs.

    There will clearly be a financial cost to football for such testing regimes and I believe that any such funds could and should be put to better use elsewhere for the benefit of the game and societies as a whole.

    People know that taking drugs is wrong. Sadly, many people think that diving, shirt-pulling, abusing referees, vile chanting and taunting of the opposition is still acceptable.

    Football has much more important issues to address than drugs. Issues that affect society as a whole, all around the world.

  • Comment number 20.

    Agree with Ventoux - took to long to type!

    Regarding the lack of drug use by footballers and other "skill" sports - I am not an expert but I would estimate they can be abused.

    Drugs (EPO) can improve endurance and football games last for 90 minutes (minimum) and tennis matches can last for hours. I would have thought being able to run at top level for longer with a higher red blood cell count or to take a cortisone injection to recover from injury would be quite helpful.

    If footballers have nothing to hide let them be tested.

    It was noted in the Operaction Puerto scandal in Spain that 50 cyclists were implicarted in blood manipulation. The rarely reported fact was thet Dr Fuentes said he had 150 other clients including those from the world of football and tennis, funnily enough this never went anywhere.

    In the past Arsene Wenger has noted strange blood values in players joining Arsenal from Europe.

    here is some background http://www.ergogenics.org/484.html

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't really see much point in FIFA even being a part of WADA at all let alone feeling the need to proscribe to their draconian 24/7 drug testing policy. Is it essential for football to be part of the Olympics? Hardly. Just like the major American sports, nobody will stop watching Football because they are concerned that it doesn't adhere to international doping rules, its just to big and to ingrained in society to be affected. Ditch WADA and if football has a concern about doping then test in house, afterall I am sure football could come up with a bigger budget than WADA can manage for testing anyway.
    Incidentaly there are plenty of banned substances that are of great benifit to the modern footballer. Sure they can't make you kick a ball better but the modern game isn't just about how well you can kick a ball.

  • Comment number 22.

    HRDC99, I agree that football in particular has a host of problems to address (I'll go along with your list), and for that sport individually, it may be that the doping issue is of lesser importance... however, we can't really take it in isolation, because that creates issues for other sports...

    My sport in particular, cycling, takes a big "hit" for the amount of drug use, and I would not wish to defend it blindly, BUT if sports like football (where there IS a drug problem) can get away with saying "we don't have a problem in our sport...", then it tarnishes cycling to a greater degree than is fair...

    oh, and cycling does have other problems too - in particular (&I'll try & address this delicately, so I don't get bumped off here...!) the current obsession with a returning former champion, whose political power in the sport is overshadowing almost everything else. For example, one might ask why the Italian champion has been refused entry to the most important race in Italy (the same one who "upset" the big cheese by talking about doping practices...)? I could go on (but daren't!!!)

    So, whilst I accept that football has it's own particular problems, then so do other sports - doping is endemic, I think, in most major sports, and requires an across the board strategy (including football) to tackle it...

  • Comment number 23.

    WADA has no interest in stopping drugs cheats. It is just a mob of dumb jobsworths who get off on imposing rules and regulations that in no way at all help to eradicate drug-cheating.

  • Comment number 24.

    The reason FIFA and the american sports don't want to do the WADA 365/24/7 policy is that unofficially they think that major recreational drug abuse is going on which is easiest enough to get anyway with if you do it in-between games, which will massively taint the image of footballers did no -one ask how Matt Stevens got away with taking Cocaine for so long? if they introduce mid week testing scores of footballers will get caught. Even former professionals have come out and said they got away with they whole careers Tony Adams and Paul Merson being the most high profile. Its got nothing to do with 'modern slavery' and why do footballers think they are above what athletes go through!

  • Comment number 25.

    Ventoux

    I'd have to disagree with you there. I do not believe that all sports require the same strategy. Each should be free to decide the priorities to focus upon.

    Football has no responsibility to cycling nor vice versa.

    Perhaps, cycling does get bad press especially related to drug abuse, but, as you point out, there are other factors that cause disillusionment amongst the fan base.

  • Comment number 26.

    Re 23

    I agree with you 100 percent. I too am suspicious of WADA and it's entire modus operandi. I really can't say that I trust them and believe that their "appeals process" is a bit of a joke. First of all, most professional athletes (outside of North America where the Players Unions have been able to negioate through collective bargaining) don't have strong representation and are pretty much at the mercy of the Sports Governing Bodies when it comes to suspensions. These suspensions do not come across as fair and to maybe a little harsh. Two years for a first offense, in my mind is a little harsh. Especially, when you consider the public humiliation somebody suffers when their Names are made public. If you factor in the media response, the shame is evident.

    There are other problems with the World Anti-Doping agency. One of these is the fact that there is no scientific definition of performance enhancement. Seriously, in many cases we simply do not know whether or not a substance actually helps an athlete perform better. In the case of some sports, there is actaully no way to prove that a substance actuall helps improve performance in the same way you can prove that tampering with equiptment helps enhance performance. You can scuff a cricket ball or a baseball and it will alter the way it moves. The evidences is straight forward. Yet with a PED, you can not measure how it actually works.

    Another thing to consider with PEDS like HGH and Anabolic Steriods is the fact that they make the user more suseptible to injuries. In the case of steriods, it is fairly evident that they muscle gained from using Steriods are not as flexible as muscles atttained naturally. Because of this the user is more suseptible to injuries. A torn bicep actually hurts one performance and does not help it.

    Another Problem WADA has is that it doesn't differentiate between PED and Recreational Drugs, which are just as harmful but only serve to hurt ones performance.

    Another problem is False Positives, WADA doesn't seem to acknowlege False positives. They take the stance that every positive is legitimate. This attitude is harmful and can lead to the ruined reputation of an innocent person. Like it or not once your name has been linked to performance enhancing drugs, you suffer irreparible loss in terms of your reputation. Even if it is later revealed that your test was a false positive, you will still suffer from the lable of "cheater" and many people will choose to believe that you are guilty when you are innocent. Here is a study on they WADA TEsts links to false positives :http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/38295.php

    And yet, WADA doesn't seem to really care about any of this. They are so focused on catching the bad guys.

  • Comment number 27.

    RE 22,

    Ventoux, I can see where you're coming from as I myself have experience a similar amount of frustration over this issue here in the United States. My favorite Sport Baseball has taken a major public relations hit over its handling of drug use amongst players. Even after Drug testing was inplementanted, the Sport has still managed have all of its athletes labeled as cheaters and many in the media lable any accomplishment by athletes in BAseball as tainted if an Athlete either admits to using PED's or has tested positive. Even though their is no evidence that bulking up actually helps a player hit a baseball bettter. Most sportswriters here in the United sTates want to attribute a recent surge in offensive numbers to steriods, forgetting that over the period of time several other factor occured which also impacted the surge in offensive statistics.

    At the same time, Another Sport American Football seems to have players suspended for PEDs all the time but doesn't catch nearly as much flack over it as Baseball does. I have heard sports talk radio host say on air, that they don't really care and that there more worried about how the suspension will affect a certain team than they are about the fact that a player was caught using. These are the same people who criticize the entire sport of Baseball, if someone is suspended for using PEDS.

    I see where you're coming from.

  • Comment number 28.

    WADA are 100% correct on this. posters that think an effective anti-doping regime can operate without a strong no notice, 365/7/24 door step testing policy don't know anything about the subject.

    but most worrying is the on going, head in the sand attitude of some fans who think the likes of cricket, rugby and football don't have a drugs problem. up until relatively recently baseball didn't have a drug problem. it didn't have a drug problem because the profits and returns were sufficient for everyone to cooperate in a corrupt system that ignored, condoned and in some cases helped athletes cheat.

  • Comment number 29.

    I too think it's great that WADA have stuck to their guns - since it makes it increasingly likely that football will pull out of all involvement with them.

    Drugtaking is not a major issue for football, for one simple reason.

    Football, unlike activities such as cycling and athletics, requires a high degree of creativity and imagination, a wide range of diverse skills, extensive and complex positional and tactical awareness etc. One cannot simply take drugs and become the best footballer in the world. The role played by drugs in the Beautiful Game is minimal, and indeed, is primarily one of footballers being disciplined for their recreational drug use.

    The fact that any particular sport has a fundamental drug problem tells me something immediately. It tells me that particular sport is a very basic one, which likely relies on nothing so much as pumping your legs up and down faster than everybody else, and which is largely unimpacted by the higher human faculties. Why would such an activity interest me?

    Football should sever all ties to WADA, and cease to be tarred with the same brush as these neanderthal pastimes, whose obsessions and priorities are largely irrelevant to the Beautiful Game.

  • Comment number 30.

    I really cannot believe the amount of people on here that insist that doping is not a problem within football.

    While PHD's are unlikely to increase skill levels directly, they will allow footballers to train harder and longer. The advantages are two-fold:

    Firstly, extra training time means longer enhancing those skills in order to perfect them on match day.

    Secondly, the extra stamina would make a huge difference during a match.

    How often do see certain teams come on strong during the last 15 minutes of a game?

    The statistics show that an inordinate number of goals are scored in the late stages of matches. Many of these instances are simply due to legitimate superior conditioning, but there have been doping scandals in football in the past, and to think that it isn't going on now, especially with the astronomic sums of money at stake, is simply naive.

    For 48 weeks of the year, footballers can simply give their training ground as the location with very little stress for all involved. The small chance that 10 minutes of their time will be required whilst on holiday is surely a very small price to pay for a career that will have them set up for life after a couple of seasons in the premiership, or whichever elite league they'r invlolved in.

    The same applies to most other sports.

    Do you really think that the incredible increase in size of rugby players over the last ten years is simply down to an extra couple of hours in the gym for example?

  • Comment number 31.

    spot on, Wordsaretheanswer.

  • Comment number 32.

    Re 28

    28. At 3:52pm on 13 May 2009, fatshez wrote:

    WADA are 100% correct on this. posters that think an effective anti-doping regime can operate without a strong no notice, 365/7/24 door step testing policy don't know anything about the subject.

    but most worrying is the on going, head in the sand attitude of some fans who think the likes of cricket, rugby and football don't have a drugs problem. up until relatively recently baseball didn't have a drug problem. it didn't have a drug problem because the profits and returns were sufficient for everyone to cooperate in a corrupt system that ignored, condoned and in some cases helped athletes cheat.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think your trying to over simplify a complex situation. Yes Baseball has had a drug problem and has had one for years. Unfortunately, the real problem hasn't been PED's but quite the contrary, the problem up until a couple of years ago was stimulants. In the Book Ball Four, former pitcher Jim Bouton told of how easy it was for players to use stimulants, especially after a long night on the town spent getting drunk. Many ball clubs kept "greenies" in a large bowl inside the locker room where Players could literally grab them by the Handful. Great players have admitted to taking "Greenies". This went on for well over 70 years until baseball finally put stimulants on their banned substances list two years ago.

    The problem with Steroids and Baseball is a lot more complex. It has not been statistically proven that a player can hit the ball farther by increasing his muscle mass. In fact, the skills required to hit a baseball require hand eye coordination, which are necessarily helped when using steroids. In addition, the sport underwent a number of changes which contributed to the offensive explosion, which took place between the years of 1993-2003. First was expansion, which affected the talent pool and allowed players who wouldn't have been able to play at the top level the chance to play. In 1992, there were 26 teams in Major League Baseball;by 1998 that number had increased to 30 as for teams entered the league. This had impact on the pitching as hitters feasted on mediocre pitches from pitchers who were clearly not ready to play in major league baseball. Fortunately, the talent pool seems to have adjusted to this.

    Another factor happens to be that stadiums built by Major League teams over the last 20 years or so have tended to be smaller in size that the stadiums that they replaced. Its very simple, if you go to into a stadium where the furthest you have to hit the ball for a home run is 400 feet, you're going to have an easier time hitting a home run than in a stadium where the distances is 425 ft.

    Still another factor, was was the officiating in the game. Umpires simply stopped calling strikes the rule book has defined strikes. Sadly, they are still doing this. And it affects the game in a way that is far greater than PEDS.

    Now is this too say, players didn't uses? No that is not the case. Many players clearly took steroids in a false belief that made them believe that it would have a positive impact on their performance. However, it doesn't appear PEDS had as much of an impact on their performance as they would think. Considering how many players were and still are more susesptible to sustaining injuries by taking steroids, the use may have actually had a negative impact on performance in baseball.

  • Comment number 33.

    Wordsaretheanswer said -

    "I really cannot believe the amount of people on here that insist that doping is not a problem within football.

    While PHD's are unlikely to increase skill levels directly, they will allow footballers to train harder and longer."

    --------------------

    LMAO!

    Perhaps the reason you cannot believe it, is that you know little or nothing about football?

    Professional footballers don't WANT to train harder and longer! They want to train lighter and less, thus allowing them more time at the beach, nightclub, restaurant etc. Football fans aren't worried about drugtaking by players, nor are any prizes awarded for physical conditioning.

    Footballers are not interested in jeopardising their health by taking steroids or some even newer, less-researched substance. Why would they, when these things don't get you high? Why would they, when the amount of money you earn is far more influenced by who your agent is, or which newspaper took your photo in the nightclub, than it is by the possibility of doing an extra few hours training which you'd sooner avoid if you can get away with it?

    Fans of other sports need to stop trying to impose their priorities on football - football fans are simply not interested. What the players put in their bodies is their own business, not the concern of the general public - and certainly not the concern of some vein-snooping international (busy)body who wants to know their whereabouts and the makeup of their internal biochemistry at all times. Who cares?

  • Comment number 34.

    After your opening statement, I was worried whether I would be able to give a full, honest response without breaking the house rules.

    You recovered well and it was a very good read.

    The problem with the training ground is that FIFA will, rightly, refuse to allow testers to march in and disrupt a team's training session. And we all know what can happen when the testers say "Okay, we'll wait for you after training."

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/3176004.stm

    As much as I dislike the concept of the whereabouts system, as much as there is a potential for WADA to abuse the system to inconvenience sports stars for the one or two weeks a year where they're out of the limelight, that's the price you pay for doing a job the rest of us can only dream of. If they don't like it, I'm sure most footballers can afford to retire.

  • Comment number 35.

    Wordsaretheanswer

    You may possibly be right about rugby players but a far more dominant factor would have resulted from the transition from being amateur to professional with the application of much more sophisticated conditioning and nutrition.

  • Comment number 36.

    35.

    Of course, but it's unlikely to be solely down to just players getting more time to play in the gym.

    The mere fact that power and endurance is such a factor in both codes of rugby make it highly likely that some people will bend the rules.

    I was merely picking out one of many possible examples available in professional sport. The money factor in rugby is arguably bigger than in athletics for example, and we've all seen how many athletes have been caught out.

 

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