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Time for footballers to reveal their whereabouts

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Matt Slater | 18:35 UK time, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Dubai's Burj Al Arab hotel and Jumeirah Beach

Whereabouts (noun): The place or general location where a person or thing is.

It's an old-fashioned word and it has connotations of time happily wasted looking for something or someone.

So, for example, Wayne Rooney's most likely whereabouts for 11 months of the year will be somewhere in the triangle between Old Trafford, Manchester United's training ground and his mansion in the Cheshire village of Prestbury.

For the remaining four weeks of the year Rooney's most likely whereabouts will be in the triangle between Prestbury, the Barbados resort of Sandy Lane and Dubai's Jumeirah Beach.

That's a big triangle. Time an anti-doping expert spends looking for Rooney during those four weeks might be happily wasted for somebody but it won't be the footballer.

Like it or not, the drug-testers ("vampires" as they're known to cyclists) are coming for Britain's footballers and it would be in everybody's best interests if we can work out a way to make this as painless as possible.

As host of the next Olympics, and candidate to stage the 2018 World Cup, Britain must be whiter than white when it comes to the sporting rule book.

That rule book is about to updated with a more muscular version of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) Code. From 1 January, the offence Rio Ferdinand was given an eight-month ban for in 2003 will trigger an enforced break of two years.

Rio Ferdinand and Manchester United director Maurice Watkins at an FA tribunal in 2003

The breathless claims in Tuesday's Sun - "England footie drug blitz" - might have turned up the super soaraway splash-o-meter to 11 but they hinted at some timely truths (or certainly some timely perceptions).

More on those later but first let's deal with the more prosaic facts (aren't they always) under the headlines.

Britain's anti-doping authorities are in talks with the Football Association (and in December, the players' union, too) about a new system for out-of-competition drugs tests for the country's elite players.

Those talks have been difficult and, judging from the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) response to The Sun story, will remain so for the near future at least (that said, a senior PFA source gave me a more conciliatory line, saying the union was looking forward to "finally discussing this matter properly").

The cause of these difficulties is a series of disagreements over where and when these tests will take place, the number of players that will be tested and what drugs the testers will be looking for.

But the differences between the two sides can be boiled down to something more fundamental: should professional team sports be treated in the same way as Olympic sports. What this means in practice can best be illustrated by returning to that cosy word "whereabouts".

Team GB's Beijing heroes know instinctively what this means - the need to provide testers with a time and place that they can be found, one hour a day, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year.

They might not like having to provide that kind of information to strangers, or the pressure of having to work out schedules three months in advance, but they know drug-free sport is an illusion without no-notice testing. And you can't have that without a workable "whereabouts" system.

Professional footballers, on the other hand, have no idea what "whereabouts" means...not yet, anyway.

For them, drug-testing is having their name drawn out of a hat to provide a blood or urine sample after a game, or being picked out at training when the testers visit a couple of times a year. The former is "in competition" - the equivalent of a medallist being detained after his or her race - and the latter is "out of competition".

What is missing is what happens between the end of one season and the start of the next. Those six-to-four weeks are usually spent on a sun lounger or golf course, and testers, should they want to find the player, would have no idea which sun lounger or golf course.

That's the "where and when" part of the stand-off: the "who" part would again cause little controversy for our Olympic stars. If you are one of the top-ranked exponents at your sport you would expect to be put in the "pool" of tested athletes.

There isn't enough time or money to test everybody so targeting the top is the best way to ensure a sport's health. And, as athletics and cycling have learned, there is nothing like a few high-profile positives "pour encourager les autres".

But who are the top-ranked footballers in the Premier League? Are they the England national squad plus a few big-name foreign stars? Are they each team's top two earners? Or how about basing the pool on the BBC's Player Rater stats?

This is something UK Sport, the agency that runs our anti-doping programme, must sort out with the FA and the PFA very soon. A pool based on the national team would seem to be the most sensible way forward and is certainly what cricket and rugby union have in mind.

That last point is worth emphasising. It is not only football that is being asked to get in step with Olympic sports, the other pro team sports are in UK Sport's sights too. The difference with football, however, is it is already an Olympic sport and should really have been doing this for some time.

While football's authorities can point to the fact it is the most tested sport in the country by a factor of four, complying with "whereabouts" is only what the likes of Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy do as a matter of course.

But UK Sport would be well advised to reassure the FA and PFA that educational resources will be made available to players to get them up to speed with the system. The last thing anybody wants is a spate of players missing tests because they have failed to get to grips with the software or misunderstood what is required of them.

But the issue football's bosses will want most clarity on is the "what drugs" question.

A urine sample is analysed by a drug-tester

Does football have a problem with performance-enhancing drugs? Probably not (and yes, I know the allegations made against certain Italian and Spanish teams over the last 20 years), although until the sport embraces truly robust anti-doping methods, I guess we'll never know.

Does football have a problem with social drugs? Maybe.

Between August and October of this year, four players tested positive for cannabis or cocaine. One of them was given a warning, the other three served suspensions of three to five months. These are British football's only positives in over 700 tests since April.

But social drugs are not really what the testers are looking for during the off-season (they currently carry no UK Sport sanction when taken out of competition).

In fact, a UK Sport source told me he would prefer it if social drugs were removed from the Wada's banned list as they are a distraction from what their work should really be about: weeding out cheats.

The football authorities, however, do care about recreational drugs and remain committed to their "social drugs programme", an admirably proportionate regime that allows for rehabilitation.

The PFA is concerned some players will make mistakes with social drugs and then compound that error by skipping drugs tests. Three of those in 18 months and you're looking at a straight two-year red card.

So why has this all come up now? Let's return to those perceptions.

There is a belief in non-football sporting circles that the world's most popular sport has only been paying lip service to those highfalutin anti-doping codes it so readily signs up to.

There is also a belief that football should set a better example when it comes to the problem of drugs in sport.

And there is another perception that football has been allowed to drag its feet on this issue because it's football - the richest, most popular, most powerful sport.

Now whether any of this is true would be the subject of considerable debate but I would have some sympathy with football's argument that it doesn't look like a sport with a doping problem.

I would also have a lot of sympathy with the view that social drugs are a different matter from EPO, HGH and steroids, and should therefore be treated in a different way.

Where I would have less sympathy is with the argument footballers are somehow different to other (and let's not forget that) Olympic athletes. If Britain's top riders, rowers and runners can put up with "whereabouts" for the greater good of their sports so can Rio and Rooney.

Whether the testers from UK Sport will get past security at the Burj Al Arab hotel is another matter but our footballers should at least be held to same the standards as our Olympians.


  • Comment number 1.

    What? Very Rabdom...

  • Comment number 2.

    They'd be better off pumping all the money this will require into the anti racism campaign instead of sweeping these disgusting monkey chants etc under the carpet.
    Does anyone actually know of a drug that would make someone better at football? There should be random testing for steroids but I doubt anyone plays better due to the use of recreational drugs.

  • Comment number 3.

    Post 2 - there isn't a drug that makes a player 'better at football'. However, there are drugs that can enhance performance, e.g...
    Testosterone, Nandrolone and DHEA - all allow the athlete to train harder for a longer period of time.
    Growth Hormone - Increases muscle mass, strengthens bones and reduces body fat.
    Insulin - can also increase muscle mass.

    It could be argued that these are more likely to be used in more 'athletics' based events, footballers don't necessarily have to be the biggest and best built footballers, in order to be the best footballers.

    I think the situation is summed up, however in the following phrase from the blog:-

    'In fact, a UK Sport source told me he would prefer it if social drugs were removed from the Wada's banned list as they are a distraction from what their work should really be about: weeding out cheats.'

    As the stats in this blog show - there have been very very very few drug test failures in UK football. In my opinion, football now is not a game dominated by drug taking. The current method of drug checking seems to work, if it isnt broke, don't change it.

    However, on the other hand, what is to say that many players are slipping under the radar because the current checks are not good enough??

  • Comment number 4.

    There seems to be a general assumption that there is no performance enhancing drug use in football. Why is this?

    Footballers are down the gym bulking up as much as other sportsmen these days - look at how scrawny players were even 5 years ago, compared to now. Who's to say they won't look for the same short cuts other sportsmen have.

    I believe a professional footballer gets tested on average 0.5 times a season - that's hardly going to catch people taking performance enhancing drugs. As of a couple of years ago, for out of competition tests, the testers turned up and got a list of players training that day from the club and selected 3 names at random. So as long as the club left your name off the list, you'd be fine to take anything.

    And forget trying to argue that footballers are honest - look at the amount of diving, leaving legs out to prompt contact, feigning injury, pressuring referees etc going on. And despite what some people might say, English players are as bad at cheating as Johnny Foreigner now.

  • Comment number 5.

    Post 4 - Where is that figure of players being tested 0.5 times a season from? After every game, 1 named squad player from each team is randomly selected. Therefore, there are atleast 38 opportunities (plus Carling Cup, Fa Cup/Champs League/UEFA games).
    In theory, every professional player should be chosen atleast once a season, in practice that doesn't work, but that is why the players are chosen at random. It would be unfair to choose players out by hand.

    Also, there are still many 'scrawny' players out there now...Messi, Ronaldo, Pienaar, Arteta, Osman, Agbonlahor, Keane, Wright-Phillips, Lennon etc.... the list is endless.
    I would argue that a footballer may now have a preference to beef up in order to cope with a more physical game, but it doesn't necessarily mean that players who beef up take drugs.

    This was not intended to have a go at you, I am just trying to come from the other side of the argument!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Footballers have become so unsporting that the need for drug testing has never been greater. They cheat by diving, faking injury, getting other players booked etc. that it would be naive to think that some wouldn't take drugs if they thought they could get away with it. Drug testing is common in almost every other sport, so I don't get what the big deal is - if they've got nothing to hide what's the problem?

  • Comment number 7.

    should the testers need to find any of our high profile players . they need just ask the paporazi they seem to have no trouble finding them

  • Comment number 8.

    Judging by the low response to this article the average football fan doesn't seem very bothered about this issue - unless it's in another sport e.g. cycling. I'm just contrasting this with the way any drugs in cycling story is peppered with holier than thou comments from them.

  • Comment number 9.

    Post3 - Think you've summed it up nicely mate. Never heard so much sense from a blue ;)

  • Comment number 10.

    EvertonFC87 - the new proposals are more to do with out-of-competition testing, ie doping in order to train harder. If the testing regime is not rigorous enough, then it is very, very easy for experienced doctors to dope players and escape detection. I recommend that you read the book "Breaking The Chain" by Willy Voet, about how he helped cyclists doping and the ease with which the team got around controls.

    The general view in football is that few positive tests = no real problem. However, as Dr Fuentes has admitted to doping footballers in Spain, I think that we can see that this really does not work in practice. Also, players, coaches and doctors from Italian clubs have admitted that the problem exists in football.

    The British media don't really cover these stories, but if you speak French, you'll be able to find a whole load of information about doping.

  • Comment number 11.

    Heinzeforking - you questioned whether there is a drug that allows you to play better football. Well, obviously there isn't one that will give you new skills, but if a team that has been taking EPO, plays against a team that is competing cleanly, then the cheating team will clearly have a big advantage in that they can play at high intensity for longer.

    Have a look on the Internet for "Operacion Puerto" + "Football", then you'll see that systematic doping and football are definitely no strangers to each other.

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

    I think they should be tested as often as in other sports and if there caught then they should be band for keeps, especialy those a the very top of our game.

    These guys are payed a fortune and idolized by the kids, so set an example if there caught.

    On a different subject, is it true that Man U are going give Ronaldo more money and a new contract, he will be crying to leave again in the summer, he's just a spoilt brat.

  • Comment number 14.

    There remains something very murky around Puerto. Why of the 200 "athletes" on the list have only the names of the cyclists been published? As I recall cyclists make up only about 25% of the total sportsmen under investigation. Can anyone enlighten me as to why football and tennis players have been afforded anonymity whilst only cyclists are named and shamed? This only serves to perpetuate the myth that there is no doping problem in "mainstream" sport.

  • Comment number 15.

    Whilst I fully endorse drug testing footballers (even though I think its highly unlikely that any top players are on drugs, they just have too much to lose to take that stupid risk), I find it odd how other forms of cheating in the game, namely diving, go relatively unpunished.

    A player is far more likely to cheat this way than be taking a performance enhancing substance.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think it is disgraceful. No one should be forced to provide so much detail about their locations, it is no one else's business.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm not sure that the problem of 'whereabouts' is an issue here. If a player is lounging on a beach in Dubai for a couple of weeks, he's hardly likely to be doping up on steroids and EPO, knowing he has to stop as soon as he gets back. In fact I wonder how many of them even train hard when they're on holiday, pretty much a necessity for most performance enhancing drugs to be effective I'd have thought.

    Personally I would be most put out if I had somebody trying to pin me down during my 2 weeks off, no matter how much money I earned.

  • Comment number 18.

    Guys, you are all forgetting one vital fact. Football is a job; like any other job, yes it is a sport, however the workers like in any other job sign contracts and have to follow rules.

    Look at an example when your working; and you have a holiday period of 2 weeks, do you have to give your wherabouts? No you do not; as you are out of work.

    I understand testing during the work; but outside of it i feel is unreasonable and turns your job in 24/7 even when it shouldn't be. Play football week in week out; you deserve a break, not having to inform people where you are all the day.

  • Comment number 19.

    Drugs probably have less effect on the outcome of a game of football than in most other sports.

    As has been pointed out, diving for penalties, free kicks and getting players sent off is a much more pernicious form of cheating. It is a greater threat to the integrity of the game, as one incident can decide the result. It should be taken as least as seriously as drugs.

    The stamina of the players, real or chemically induced, is only one in a myriad of factors that decides results.

  • Comment number 20.

    @12 There is absolutely no proof that Ferdinand did take drugs, he just missed the test

  • Comment number 21.

    "The PFA is concerned some players will make mistakes with social drugs and then compound that error by skipping drugs tests. Three of those in 18 months and you're looking at a straight two-year red card."

    Is it really that difficult to just not take the social drugs? I've managed it all my life, and I'd have thought earning £100k+ a week was a pretty good incentive for others to manage it too...

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • Comment number 23.

    I am steaming about this issue, and am writing to the PFA about this issue, and taylors comments.

    Christine Ohoroughu had to serve a year out of her sport for this issue and his multi-millionaires should not be subjected to similar controls?

    Most of the posters here make valid points about whereabouts yet sports like athletics have been forced to do this for years. From the public i bump into, most of them are suspicious of the wonderful Christine O, who unfortunately was one of the first caught in the difficult situation of saying where you will be at all times. Her reputation, and ultimately earnings have been severely dented by being one of the forerunners in ensuring that other athletes take this seriously. (one missed test was because a school sports day was at the track where she said she would be).

    Hopefully people like adam t realise that they are supporters of athletes who have been subject to this system for years, whilst other countries dont have such a detailed and systematic approach; and are more sympathetic when they here of these people missing tests.

  • Comment number 24.

    "There is a belief in non-football sporting circles that the world's most popular sport has only been paying lip service to those highfalutin anti-doping codes it so readily signs up to."

    People in non-football sporting circles should keep their noses out of what isn't their business.

    It seems that because there are so many cheats in cycling, swimming, rowing, etc. that real sportpeople such as footballers will be inconvenienced.

  • Comment number 25.

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

  • Comment number 26.

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

  • Comment number 27.

    "We do appreciate that football is a major spectator sport and we wish to co-operate, but football should not be treated in the same way as individual sports that do have a problem with drugs, such as athletics, cycling and weightlifting."

    The above comment from Taylor tells you everything you need to know about the mentality of not only footballers but their masters as well.

    I have one question for Taylor which I would love to be able to ask him face to face, in response to his comment above:

    Why not?

  • Comment number 28.

    "It seems that because there are so many cheats in cycling, swimming, rowing, etc. that real sportpeople such as footballers will be inconvenienced."

    levdavidovic, your narrow minded and baseless views are the very reason people view football as paying lip service to it.

    If you could be so kind, please name me all of the swimmers and rowers tested positive at the last olympic games? Cycling is a different story, but one you probably wouldn't understand anyway.

    Footballers being inconvenienced? Do me a favour. If you want to earn that kind of money you can accept you are a role model for youngsters and as a result set the example, not act like you're above it.

  • Comment number 29.

    I am on the side that in football, and not looking at other sports because I dont think they should have a bearing on each other, there should be drug testing. But more than at the minute? I'm not sure its needed.

    And those making the argument that footballers are cheats on the pitch doesn't mean that they harm their bodies with drugs.

    On the "problem" of whereabouts for 1 hour per day per week, if we were going on the mentioned 2 highest earners for each Premier League club to be in the top pool (or England's big stars i.e. cpt and vice-cpt) and so on. Lets take the a 100,000 pound per week earner, such as Terry and Rio. In each of those hours they will earn nearly 600 pound whilst waiting for a drug tester.

    I'm sure they'll get over it.

  • Comment number 30.

    Post 5. Ronaldo scrawny?!?! I wish I was that scrawny!! (Cristiano Ronaldo that is...).

  • Comment number 31.

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

  • Comment number 32.

    Clearly this will become an issue in the event of a family emergancy or a late call. Clearly they have to plan ahead a certain time in advance and surely this means that other things can happen on the day the tester come so the player isnt at the right place. For example imagine if they are stuck because of an accident, they are in the wrong place: 1 tick and probably press leaks about missing drugs tests. Also in the blog mentioning about the "Elite players":

    "A pool based on the national team would seem to be the most sensible way forward and is certainly what cricket and rugby union have in mind."

    Apparently UK Sport are getting this in for all the home nations footballing associations. How will this work if the player on the FA elite list is in another country will the tester have to be flown out around the world to find them?

    In my opinion this seems to be overkill yes get more testing done but to be so strict and complicated is daft.

  • Comment number 33.

    RE #24 levdavidovich

    'People in non-football sporting circles should keep their noses out of what isn't their business.

    It seems that because there are so many cheats in cycling, swimming, rowing, etc. that real sportpeople such as footballers will be inconvenienced.'

    You seem may not be fully understanding this issue, the reality of the sports you listed and the concept of 'real' sportspeople?.....

    - Football is everyone's business when it is shown on TV in probably every country on earth, almost every day at some point.

    - Football fans make it everyone else's business when they walk/fight (only a minority, I'm sure!!) their way to grounds, singing loudly and forcing the police to close off roads 'other people' use and bring in thousands of extra officers in the UK each weekend

    - I would use the term 'sportsperson' when describing rowers, (clean - like the majority of) athletes, swimmers, (clean - like the majority of) cyclists, rugby players and more, as they often work just as hard or harder than a footballer in the knowledge that the reward is never going to be close to theirs financially? Why is that? Could they be aiming to be the best as their goal, not the best-paid?....

    - I would say footballers who (in a sweeping generalisation) spit and swear liberally on the pitch, berate referees and continually challenge their decisions, dive, feign injury, ask other players to be sent off, claim goals or corners when it is clearly not correct, have trouble speaking properly, and last but not least - celebrate goals by taking their shirt off whilst on a booking and get sent off, are not really 'true' sportspeople, are they?....

    So in summary, basically they are (sadly one of your generalisations again) above-average (in some cases only average) middle to long-distance runners who can with varying degrees of success, kick a ball quite accurately around a park and make referees believe they have been fouled and/or injured in certain situations to get them sent off.

    Footballers are A - M - A - Z - I - N - G....

    PS. I actually like watching some football and think players like Schmeichal, Zola, Scholes and even Gary Neville are or were true sportspeople.

  • Comment number 34.

    Oh, and the doping issue?

    Any serious sport needs to keep drug-taking under control to ensure that their league or competition system provides a fair platform for participants.

    With the amount of money being spent on and in football these days, it is just too big a risk to allow the possibility for players (or more importantly, teams) to use Performance-enhancing drugs to help them to win. It also does damage the credibility of a sport when many respected or high-profile people involved in it state that drug-taking/doping happens with some regularity, yet the governing body dismisses these claims or fails to act on them.

    If there is a system in place and it is designed to achieve something, it should at least be a system that does what it is supposed to - ensure any players who take drugs are caught and act as a deterrant to the other players.

    The system has to change as proposed (out of season testing) so that it can actually achieve what it is designed for. Footballers will cry and whinge but who really cares?! Most of the public have the stress of saving for holidays and worrying about money, so why sympathise when footballers have to save 4 or 5 days' wages then go through the 'stressful' procedure of informing someone in advance of when they will go?

  • Comment number 35.

    A few things to consider on this. To assume that footballers are clean is to assume that they are somehow different people to those that compete in, say, cycling. It assumes that cyclists are by trait rather suspect whereas footballers aren't. More likely is that all elite athletes share similar traits, in which case footballers are just as likely to take short cuts as cyclists.

    Secondly the issue of how these can help players. It wasn't long ago that every manager would complain bitterly about players burning out, playing too many games etc. One of the main benefits of modern doping products is their impact on recovery times. So they would have a huge impact on footballers ability to play 2/3 games a week.

  • Comment number 36.

    There is a drug that helps you fall over and shout at people - it's called alcohol

  • Comment number 37.

    This is yet another example of the Big-Brother-By-Stealth culture that is infusing our once-free society.

    We must know your whereabouts at all times.

    We must know the contents of your body.

    The culture created by this is bad news for human society, and bad news for human rights.

    The solution? Pay sportspeople a flat wage for their services, win or lose. Then you take away the motivation to use damaging drugs.

    Why should it be more "fair" or laudable to succeed in sport through accident of genetics, than it is to succeed through what you eat or put into your body?

    No-one has any right to demand to know the contents of another human being's blood.

  • Comment number 38.

    Should there be drug testing in football?? of course! should they follow the same "whereabouts criteria" as other olympic sports such as athletics, cycling etc? No - it just wouldn't work

    Athletes are very much in control of theirwhereabouts.

    Footballers whereabouts during the season are 100% controlled by their managers and clubs. They get told when to train, when to come in, when not to come in, when training is finished, when to have a day off and when to get on the bus (if you are not picked for a game you may not travel and may not find out in some instances until the morning of the game). Although various systems are in place for athletes to notify changes in their programme at short notice this would be a much rarer occurrence than a footballers change of programme due to a Managers/clubs decision. Does anybody really think that players have a say over what SAF or Roy Keane say

  • Comment number 39.

    As far as I am aware, no football player in the the English league has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (I'm not interested in social drugs unless they have a performance enhancing aspect).
    If there were a real problem with an increase in those testing positive, then the number of tests performed would need to be increased to curb the trend. As it stands, there is no real problem, therefore no need to increase testing.

    I have always been disgusted by 'out of competition' testing which is nothing more than a money making scam for the testing industry. 'Whereabouts' should be of no concern to testers other than to have a look at the fixture list. I, for instance (like any other fan), know the time, location and duration of all my teams fixtures for the next few weeks and could easily turn up unannounced and test players (if I had the authority as a tester). I also know the location of my teams training ground (this is public knowledge) so turning up there and doing random and immediate tests should be no great hardship.

    To have to specify which holiday resort they will be at so they can be tested for something that has no bearing on their current circumstances is a gross intrusion on their privacy.

    A more dynamic approach to testing needs to be implemented. If a player at a club tests positive, the rest of the squad should immediately also be tested to decide whether the player or club should receive the majority of the punishment - which should be harsh. By punishing the club with an automatic 3 point deduction for each player failing a test will ensure the club instils a drug free policy. That club should face increased testing for a period of time to ensure no relapse. Testers should have the power to walk into a training ground and test someone immediately - no reason to wait until the end of the training session so dopey Rio can forget and go home. A blood test takes 2 minutes.

  • Comment number 40.

    i'm all for this, a couple of home truths about doping,

    We know it tends to follow money, the more money there is, the more likely there is doping invovled.

    Few sports are actively confronting doping, the only one which is, is getting pillored for it (cycling) when we should be supporting it. Italian clubs have had several incidents of doping in football, I find it amaxing that no-one is using anything here

    comments such as doping won't help footballers. not true, you try running half the pitch going round a few tackles and then shooting, chances are that your lungs are bursting which will affect the amount of power in your shot (and that is one example of many others that one can bring up)

    operation puerto which seems to have disapeared off the radar had 170 names on the list, of which footballers were mentioned as one of the athlete classes, not necessarily British ones but clearly if someone is using it there must be an advantage.

    Finally, it's hard to know where you are 3 months in advance, true, but you can change it up to a minute before by texting, not exactly hard when we all live with our mobiles to hand. One professional athete I met, said she always put her 1 hour time-testing period in the early hours of the morning, as that's one period she knows where she will be: in bed recovering from a day's training. If the testers do come, she might loose sleep, but will only be affected for a day, not a year like the english female 400m runner who was banned for missing 3 out of competition tests.

  • Comment number 41.

    This is silly, of course footballers should be able to account for their whereabouts, especially when these can be changed one minute before the arranged time!

    Also, name one high profile swimmer who has been caught doping!

    Furthermore, cycling does have a drug problem, or at least did, and should therefore be commended for the way it is tackling it.

    There are also plenty of reasons a footballer may be a drug cheat. One of the main attributes for a footballer is stamina, which can be vastly increased with training and cheating, as can power, speed, alertness, aggression etc etc. So lets have less of the rubbish which puts footballers in their own little box. This only comes about because of the large catchment area for football fans... it naturally includes more idiots.

  • Comment number 42.

    Can't see why football has this obsession of being part of the Olympics. If we stayed out of it then we could stick with our own rules and forget about WADA. The same goes for other sports as well. Why do people think that any and every sport should be part of the Olympic set-up, however impractical their inclusion might be (try organising a knock-out competition of five-day test matches within the Olympic time frame)?

  • Comment number 43.

    Matt, I may be wrong but I think there is an issue here that is being overlooked.

    Football is a sport in which success is less reliant on pure explosiveness, strength or stamina than say athletics or cycling and to that extent I can see that the benefits of ped taking in football are less clear.

    However, unlike athletics and cyling football is a contact sport and whereas it would be stupid to say athletes and cyclists don't get injured contact does lead to injury.

    Now football clubs not only pay millions of pounds to buy players but tens of thousands of pounds a week in wages. Naturally they do not want to see their star players on the treatment table for a minute longer than necessary. So just how do you speed up recovery from that niggling injury so that your star centre forward can be fit for the next big match?

    Of course there are plenty of legitimate ways and means of helping recovery but couldn't human growth hormone and certain oxygen carrying elements help as well?

    If the answer to that is yes then I suspect football (and rugby) might have a problem.

  • Comment number 44.

    To answer darrencovham (41) Tunisian gold medallist Oussama Mellouli who wasn't required to give a blood sample despite returning from an 18-month drug ban

    If you read the following article by retired Olympic champion Grant Hackett at,22049,24637366-5001023,00.html you will see that there is very little drug testing in swimming.

    I'm not against drug testing, just saying let's be sensible about this. Most of us would object if we had to tell our employers exactly where we'd be 24/7 and especially during our 2 weeks of sun and sand. Athletes are no different in this respect.

  • Comment number 45.

    My girlfriend had to fill in the whereabouts when she was an RYA funded sailor training for the Olympics. It was easy to fill in the whereabouts, she would put she's be at home between 5am and 6am. Now the majority of footballers are pretty stupid, but I'm sure even they could manage that.

    And yes the club do have a responsibilty for the players to be in one place, but if they made the whole squad report in at 9am, either for physio, training or watching TV as my club seems to do, everyone knows where they'll be.

    If you want the right to be a professional footballer, then it's only fair that you can prove you're clean.

    To those arguing that it's no-one elses business, would you like to be disdvantaged in your work because someone else cheats? Didn't think so.

  • Comment number 46.

    Some people are complete idiots, or can't read. You only have to let the testers know, via a website or text, where you'll be for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week. Not exactly a hardship is it.

  • Comment number 47.

    37. At 06:52am on 12 Nov 2008, The Hand Of Hidden Forces wrote:
    This is yet another example of the Big-Brother-By-Stealth culture that is infusing our once-free society.

    We must know your whereabouts at all times.

    We must know the contents of your body.

    The culture created by this is bad news for human society, and bad news for human rights.

    The solution? Pay sportspeople a flat wage for their services, win or lose. Then you take away the motivation to use damaging drugs.

    Why should it be more "fair" or laudable to succeed in sport through accident of genetics, than it is to succeed through what you eat or put into your body?

    No-one has any right to demand to know the contents of another human being's blood.


    When there is so much at stake, yes they do
    Fans pay a ton of money to watch these people play, they are role models, winning and losing single games can be the difference between real business success and complete financial meltdown for some teams, there are plenty of harder working honest players who deserve more than the drug takers.

    That is all ignoring the simple morality here that cheating is wrong! in any sport.
    It does happen (how much we dont know) and for the sake of the sport and the clubs and the fans it should be dealt with.

    What god given right do footballers have over any other athletes? The fact that they get paid so much is even more reason why they should be tested, its a small amount to ask for the money that they earn.

    This is a pretty far cry from 1984 man, the testers are not implanting tracking devices in their blood, or monitering chemical compositions in order to develop control methods,
    Its a test, to uphold the equity of the game, so what

    ----Your solution is laughable

  • Comment number 48.

    I can see some footballers being too thick to understand this new system.

  • Comment number 49.

    So football finally has to look to it's laurels and the feted glitterati of the sport have to pay a consious note to what every other elite sportsman in the world already has to's about time.

    I have a couple of points about the article though.

    Does Matt Slater actually support the push for a proper anti-doping policy in football or not?

    If he does, why then is he trying to look at ways to assuage the impacts.

    I am also intrigued by his amazing trust in football and that it doesn't have a doping problem yet over the years he has seen fit to, using a footballing term "put the boot in" to other sports every time some doping scandal or other breaks into the media.

    Other sports such as cycling have made huge roads into the doping problem only because they are addressing their problems, there is still a huge way to go but they are trying to do something. Football and the PFA seem to want a way out.

    Should football be above suspicion,will football be treated the same way as the sychphantic pandering to Christina Ohurugo during and after the olympics despite her past. Other sports are face accusation without fail, why should football be any different.

    If Mr Slater wants to be classed as an evaluative journalist he needs to start treating all sports the same way.

  • Comment number 50.

    The idea of 'whereabouts' testing seems a touch too heavy - these guys may be professional athletes but how would you like it if you were required to provide one hour location information during your holidays - at work it's fair enough, but during the off season?

    and it's true football is less likely to attract drugs cheats - yes you can become stronger/faster/increase stamina but football isn't about losing an extra second off a lap time, or a few extra strokes per minute - it's about skill

    Obviously there needs to be a drugs testing scheme to prevent the use of them - but clearly they have a much bigger influence on individual sports (cycling/weightlifting etc) - so why not just increase the pool after every match - eg. 2 players from each team, and perform a random unannounced drugs test at training sessions (where all players would normally be obliged to attend)

    as for recreational drugs - bit of a grey area, the FA want to set an example and have a zero tolerance policy, I don't mind that being banned in the workplace, although it should only apply there (which it does)

  • Comment number 51.

    Evening all, thanks for reading/commenting. Some quick thoughts from me (it's an Orange Wednesday and I need to be out the door in 10 mins), so apologies for not directing them at individuals.

    Are footballers tested enough?

    Hmmm, depends how you define "enough"? Marion Jones was tested 160 times. Was that enough? UK Sport, in conjunction with the FA, performed 1600 tests last year, four times as many as the next sport. That's a big total but it's not a huge amount if you consider how many professional footballers we have. But would doing more tests actually "prove" anything? Remember the Marion Jones example. These days most anti-doping experts talk about doing the right tests, on the right athletes, at the right time. The concept of "random" testing is quite old-fashioned now, it's all about smart, targeted testing now......hence things like a "testing pool", no-notice out-of-comp tests, freezing blood samples and whereabouts.

    Are there drugs that make you a better footballer?

    Yes, definitely. OK, there isn't anything out there that will help you trap a ball or hit 40-yard passes with the outside of your weaker foot, but there are plenty of drugs out there that will boost your strength and stamina...and anybody who thinks those two attributes aren't increasingly important hasn't watched a Premier League game recently. A fast, strong, gifted footballer who can run and run, is better than a one-paced, weak, gifted footballer who runs out of steam after 75 minutes. And that doesn't even bring the length of the season into the equation or the number of games the top players are being asked to play. So yes, there are definitely drugs that can make you a more effective/marketable footballer.

    Does football have a Perf-Enhancing Drug problem?

    Not sure. I don't think so. Yes, I remember Zeman's claims about Juve and other dark tales of Serie A clubs and various pills, potions and jabs. And of course we all know about Eufemiano Fuentes' OP claims. But nobody has ever made any of them stick....and yes, people, me included, have tried (Le Monde got stung to the tune of 3m euros for having a pop). It should also be pointed out that even though normal, old-fashioned, in-comp testing isn't all that, it does trip up a few cheats. Off the top of my head, I think there have only been two football positives for PEDs since testing came in and I don't remember either resulting in big bans.

    So why do more tests?

    Well, just because we haven't caught any footballers yet doesn't mean there aren't a few bad apples out there. We know there are drugs that could help and we know that cheating is part of the human condition....footballers are no better or worse than any other type of athlete. The fact that I (and many others) think there isn't a problem yet is no reason to think we've got it sussed forever or pretend that the situation could change. There are also the external factors to consider. Football is an Olympic sport (although we try to forget that in this country) and therefore should be treated in the same manner as other Olympic sports....Blatter is on Wada's board, after all! There is also the fact that the UK wants to take a lead in these areas now, as hosts of 2012 OG and hopefully 2018 WC. And finally, there is the wider shift in public opinion (see the US for the best example of this) against doping.

    So where is all this going?

    A stricter regime for football is inevitable...I don't see how they can continue to stay outside it, legally or morally. I also think football will get over its initial concerns pretty quickly. Footballers arent' that daft (certainly no dafter than lots of Olympic athletes) and the "whereabouts" system isn't that complicated. And there are plenty of safeguards. You can update your location by text message up to a minute before your one-hour slot. As Christine O learned to her cost, keep it simple. Tell the testers to come to your house first thing.

    Putting the boot into other sports?

    Ah, so that will the story I wrote about the Tour de France being in danger of losing all credibity because of a complete failure to get to grips with doping. Yep, I was wrong on every count there, wasn't I? We can go through that story any time you like...just not now, I'm in a rush. What other sport have I put the boot into?

    What do I really think?

    The team structure of football is a key issue for me....for football to have a doping problem it would have to have a systematic doping problem ie the clubs would have to directing it (which is exactly what Juve were accused of in the mid90s). Call me naive but I don't think any British clubs are doing that. Where, I think, problems could exist is players coming back from injuries. PEDs have a huge effect on injury recovery/prevention, so I admit it is possible for individual players/doctors to be taking illegal short cuts to get back on the field. Let's get football fully signed up to proper testing and see what we find.

  • Comment number 52.

    Matt, claiming that the Tour de France is losing credibility because of a failure to get to grips with the doping problem IS COMPLETELY WRONG - the Tour de France (and cycling in general) is losing credibility because of its successful anti-doping efforts.

    Over the past few couple of years cycling has lost so many star names - Ullrich, Basso, Vinokourov, Heras, Landis, Rasmussen, Ricco......... and this year 5 TdF stages and the King of the Mountains prize were won by riders who were found positive and have been kicked out of the sport. Similarly the Giro d'Italia has lost a fair few stage winners this year because of better testing. How can you possibly say that a sport which bans so many top performers is failing to get to grips with the doping problem? Cycling has sent out a clear message to cheats - it doesn't matter who you are, or how much money you have to spend on trying to dupe the testers - eventually you will be caught.

    In the very near future, the results of biological passports are going to be released, and the authorities will start disciplinary procedures against any riders who have been caught out using this innovative (and unique to cycling) method. I expect more riders to be caught out doping and more negative press about the sport, but I'm happy that in the long run it will mean less cyclists will think that they can get away with cheating.

    And cycling has had to pay a very heavy price for all of this. In the days when everyone turned a blind eye to the problem, the sport was thriving. Now sponsors are pulling out, events are being cancelled and TV coverage is being pulled.

    I'm not naive enough to believe that cycling will ever be completely drug-free, but we are finally seeing outspoken anti-dopers (Wiggins, Cavendish, Gilbert, etc.) take big, big prizes. I just wish that people like you, Matt, wouldn't make statements like cycling's "complete failure to get to grips with doping" when no other sport does so much to clean itself up.

    I just hope that if football is shown to have a problem, the authorities will tackle it head on, instead of covering up because they fear losing all of that lovely income.

    Rant over, 'cos I want my breakfast.

  • Comment number 53.

    Hello i-dream-of-yellow, I agree with much of what you say (I've made some of those points myself over the last couple of years) but why is it that posts from passionate cycling fans on the issue of doping so often end up as "rants"?

    First, you, (and you're by no means the first) have misquoted/misrepresented me. I said I wrote a story in 2006 (ie Floyd Landis) that stated the TdF was "in danger of losing all credibility because of a complete failure to get to grips with doping". You omit the "in danger of", you also ignore the context.

    Second, yes, you're right cycling should now be applauded for its anti-doping efforts. Cycling fans often like to claim no other sport is doing AS MUCH to weed out the cheats, I'm not sure about that but I would agree no other sport is doing MORE. I have written about this on more than one occasion but as that doesn't fit the the "mainstream sports hack dissing my sport" mindset of so many cycling fans those stories have clearly made no impression.

    But third, your conclusion that cycling's current credibility problems (and the muted reaction from the mainstream press to this year's positives say it all really....TdF cyclist fails what?) are the result of an almost self-destructive, strong moral commitment to clean sport is, well, nonsense. That would be true if cycling's doping problems started with Landis or Puerto. But you and I both know that isn't true. Cycling's doping issues go back to the beginnings of the sport and there have been plenty of line-in-the-sand moments since (Simpson? Festina? First spate of EPO deaths?). What was cycling's response to these crises of credibilty? Yep, exactly. When you look back at the top-10 placings for the TdFs between, let's say 1996 and 2005, it is easier to find a rider who has failed a test or been strongly implicated in doping than it is to find a clean rider. Look at the top 20 in 2005: it makes for depressing reading. How many clean riders? Eight? Nine? That cycling is now giving its chronic doping problem serious and not-a-moment-too-late attention should be recognised but let's not kid ourselves why cycling is doing has to, for its very survival as a sport worthy of interest from the wider public, media and commercial world. Sponsors/broadcasters aren't giving pro road racing a wide berth because it has a superb anti-doping programme, they're giving the sport a wide berth because that programme keeps catching cheats. Get the riders to stop taking drugs and the problem goes away.

    Fourth, all that said, I do, believe or not, have sympathy for cycling's situation. It is, along with a few other strength/endurance-based sports, uniquely vulnerable to the temptations of doping. The drugs do work. That fact has led to the development of a deep-rooted culture over the years, a belief that a rider has to dope to keep up with the other buggers, who are all doping too, so it's not really cheating then, is it? Years of tacit acceptance of this culture by riders, sponsors, fans, journalists and administrators has got cycling to where it was in 2006...a mess. I believe cycling is fixing that mess and I will continue to commend its efforts for doing so.

    Now when you've finished your breakfast, I would be interested to hear your views on what football can learn from cycling's experience and if you really think football is where cycling was a few years ago.

  • Comment number 54.

    With all due respect Matt, journalists including yourself, have an inate ability to use cycling and the doping problems within the sport as sensationalist headlines every single time there is an issue.

    However where this ability fails is when a doping issue crops up in other sports. Might I use the example of Steve Cram and the athletics crew's incredible sycophancy towards Christina Ohourugu despite the background of her "issues". As most of us read on the BBC site "no smoke without fire", fawning over her but immediatly questioning Usain Bolt.

    There has to be a middle ground, either you and your colleauges are dead against doping and openly support the attempts of WADA and other sports federations or take sports individually and decide to go down the road of whatever suits.

    Cycling Fan Rants - I am a huge cycling fan and have had other "rants" removed because I've questioned the ethics of reporters and journalists. Why cycling fans feel aggrieved is the double edged reporting we see everywhere.

    Cycling has it's problems, from a fans perspective the biggest issue is what appears to be the double standards of the UCI and the continuing hangover fro the reign of Hein Verbruggen. The hope among many of us was that Pat McQuaid would take a much firmer grip of all matters concerning the sport and deal with them, this hasn't happenned. Double standards exist everywhere, even on the BBC I'm afraid.

    Doping in sports to me represents the biggest threats to the development of sports af all types, it will take the efforts of everyone involved in these sports to rid themselves of the threat of doping, that includes you guys.

    Thanks for coming back into this, I hope this one doesn't disappear into the ether unless these issues are discussed we never progress

  • Comment number 55.

    Betarider, I agree entirely with your last paragraph, and writers coming back to their blogs to answer comments should go without saying as far as I'm concerned.

    You make a sweeping statement about me in your first paragraph. Apart from "that article" can you point out another where I have made a "sensational headline" out of cycling's doping problem? Can you also explain to me what I was supposed to write/think after Floyd Landis was caught cheating in 2006?

    I can't speak for Steve Cram but again please point out where I have treated Christine O sycophantically? It's funny you mention Usain Bolt, I've written plenty about him, but all of it balanced. This was my response to his first 100m record:

    And this was my piece about our investigation into the fact Jamaica (and many other countries) doesn't have a robust anti-doping system:

    I could pick out more but my argument is consistent throughout: I think Bolt is clean but I can't be sure about all of his Jamaican team-mates (or other Caribbean sprinters) because they're not properly tested and we've been lied to so many times before by other sprinters who claimed to work hard and be blessed by God etc etc.

    As for my views on Wada and the wider anti-doping effort, you're having a go at the wrong journalist. Again, look through the archive. It was my story that got Dick Pound together with Victor Conte. It was my story that revealed the Beijing test for HGH was a waste of time. I helped get Dwain Chambers and UK Sport in the same room and I broke the story about his letter. But I also wrote about America's Project Believe and Mark Cavendish's decision to sign up to the UCI charter. I could go on. Basically, we agree on the pernicious influence of doping. I hate cheats! That's all the dopers are....cheats and usually hypocrites and liars too. We'll never entirely beat them, cheating is part of life. But you'll not find me saying we shouldn't the article again!

  • Comment number 56.

    Definitely should be held at the same standard, if not even higher, than Olympians.

    Millions of kids idolise these footballers much more so than an olympic athlete. Footballers responsibilities are much higher because they have such an influence of peoples lives, therefore they should be under stricter testing, it's that simple really. Good plan and fair play Rio for backing it.

  • Comment number 57.

    Am I right in saying UK Sport is an independent agency? Rolling out tighter (and more expensive) drugs testing to the mainstream sports smells like money grabbing to me.

  • Comment number 58.

    As far as i am concern. Ferdinand has not right to talk about drug test. he is the one who missed it a few years ago.

  • Comment number 59.

    They get paid ridiculous amounts of money to do a job that most people dream of - they better not have a problem peeing into a bottle every so often

  • Comment number 60.

    Rio in fav of drug testing !!!

    one word: 2005, need i say anymore?

  • Comment number 61.

    What's the fuss about ? They can all afford personal secretaries who can do their texting. You'll not see them miss their appointment with their hairdresser's will you ? If only journalists took time out to reveal those involved in business cartels of which there have been quite a few lately and they've been fined, massively! But it'll be a small article tucked away somewhere, what about some honesty from journalists!

  • Comment number 62.

    Absolute classic! Rio Ferdinand is going to back these drug tests because he was punished for not bothering to turn up for one...Hypocrisy at its best.

    All athletes who are competing in a professional Sport regardless of what sport should be stringently tested on a regular basis as they are ambassadors for their sports and owe it to the Public to be Compus Mentus because after all it is us who are paying their Salaries.

    Noone should really be exempt especially if there is elements of danger to both yourself and comrades in your chosen Job Spec. I am in the Forces and would be horrified if we didnt get checked on a regulare basis.

  • Comment number 63.

    I read Ferdinand is backing this new policy on drugs.....But shouldn't his statement include a clause exempting those who are buying sheets for their new home?

  • Comment number 64.

    ironic how its Rio backing the proposals when he 'missed' his test in 2003. another miss coming up?

  • Comment number 65.

    Is anyone really surprised that footballers are being asked to reveal their whereabouts? Britain is already fast becoming a Big Brother state, we're watched everywhere we go, all our communications will be monitored soon if the latest bill goes through Parliament. We're losing our civil liberties because we're told it protects us from terrorism, this is just an excuse to extend the snooping to footballers. Sad but true.

  • Comment number 66.

    Drug testing in football seems to me less relevant than in the more purely athletic arena. Yes, taking drugs can help you win 100m gold, yes it can help you win the Tour de France, and yes it might help you to win Olympic golds in the pool etc etc etc. But even if some footballers do take drugs, football is too complex a sport for anyone to be able to look back and say the wrong team won on that account. Endurance, speed and strength are nothing more than basic requirements in modern football, after that you still need a hell of a lot that no pill can provide. When you take every advantage that any drug could provide you are still not yet necessarily a good, top-flight, team footballer.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hi Matt,

    Sorry if you feel misrepresented, but now I've had breakfast (twice), several other meals and a good night's sleep, I'll add a bit more.

    A few years ago I would have agreed with you that cycling has just covered the cracks with a sticking plaster, but I genuinely believe that the nature of the sport has really changed. This is not just evident in words and good intentions, but also in the way that races have changed - look at how the Paris-Nice raced changed leaders every couple of days, and nobody could really control it. Also the lack of big, Jan Ullrich style riders who could still keep pace on the mountains with the little 'uns. But like I said, I don't think that cycling is completely clean, I don't think that it ever will be, but massive improvements have been made and can be made. For example, CERA. Everyone believed that this was undetectable. So, if the peloton was doping en masse, a new and efficient test, unannounced in the middle of the world's biggest event, would have caught more than a handful.

    I didn't overlook the "in danger of" bit. I know that in the eyes of the general public (and many cycling fans), the TdF lost all credibility a long time ago. I just think that in the current climate the willingness to take on the problem is causing the sport some major credibility issues.

    I don't agree that my conlusion is nonsense, because I would agree with you that cycling has failed in a massive way to face up to doping in the past, but I'm talking about the present. Yes, cycling is doing this for the money (particularly the teams), but can you honestly look at the present anti-doping programme, and say that this is not designed to rid the sport of cheats? What more can the cycling and anti-doping authorities do?

    So, to your question about what football can learn from cyclin. If a load (or even a few, given the small numbers involved) positive tests do come up, don't do what cycling did for years and pretend there is no problem. Admitting that doping is present in football and taking a very hardline stance will help to regain some credibility.

    And do I think football is where cycling was 10 years ago? No, in terms of the scale, I think that's unlikely. But when people like Fuentes say he's been doping footballers, and nobody says a thing, I do get very suspicious. If I were manager of a CL side, and had to play Spanish teams, I know that I'd want doping in footie properly investigated and eliminated (assuming that my team doesn't dope, of course).

    Thanks for your reply, hope you didn't take my rant too personally (porridge always calms me down). But if you are going to refer back to old articles about the state of cycling, could I request that you post links for them? I would like to read them before posting on your blogs.

    By the way, I'm a cycling and a football fan. I don't want either sport tainted by doping, but I also don't want to see young men and women dropping dead in the name of sport.

  • Comment number 68.

    Rio backing the move to have drug tests on footballers?

    What a wonderful world!!!

  • Comment number 69.

    Oops, misread some of what you said. That's what comes of trying to answer blogs whilst on my break at work.

    Anyway, having read your response again, I can see that you agree with me on several points regarding cycling: Cycling has done too little in the past to combat the sport, leading to a particularly bad reputation; it has now changed and has the most effective anti-doping regime of any sport; I think that we can both see that this new approach is working. Do we agree on these points?

    Coming back to football, which was the whole point of your article, I've been thinking about the whole issue, and one thing troubles me. From the financial point of view, as I have mentioned, cycling has lost out massively from tackling doping. Now we're entering into a global economic crisis there will be less money coming into football. With so many leading clubs owing massive amounts of money, and players tied into multi-million pound contracts for several years, is football really going to do anything to risk this revenue? Especially as investing in a football team isn't going to be the wisest move now that Man City have one billion, trillion pounds to spend.

    One last thing, Ferguson's reasons for opposing the new anti-doping measures were so feeble that Michael Rasmussen could have beaten them in an arm-wrestle.

  • Comment number 70.

    These rules are not needed in Football. Football should tell WADA where to go. We have a system in place already.

    Unlike the Olympic Sports (which let's face it no-one really cares about) who have to cap in hand to the Government for funding. The Premier League is rich enough and should be brave enough to tell WADA where to go.

    I mean what can WADA do? Exclude football from the Olympics big deal. We have the World Cup the biggest sporting event in the world.

  • Comment number 71.

    If the squad of the average Prem club is 30, if one squad member is tested every game, and if the club plays 45 games, then the average player will be tested 45/30 = 1.5 times per season. Yes, that's three times the 0.5 figure you are rightly querying, but far lower than the kind of figure I get the impression you have in your mind.

    Now, I'm not sure there's a problem at all, so I'm certainly not pointing a finger at any club or individual in the players I have pretty well randomly chosen to illustrate this point, but imagine you are one of ten or a dozen midfielders at a middling club, and you are one who is not often getting the manager's nod - someone in the position of Mokoena of Blackburn or Hughes of Hull.

    It is probable (though not certain, of course) that you are not going to be tested all season, because you appear in the match squad of 16 so infrequently that your name is rarely going to be in the hat. So if your dodgy agent says "Take this stuff for the next two weeks - it will boost your stamina for months," how much of a risk are you taking if you say yes?

    I doubt that there is a problem in English football - but I also think it is perhaps a bit naive to imagine that a 1.5 tests per player per year system would expose it if there was.


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