AP Interview: FIFA concern over African stimulants
FIFA is concerned that players at the World Cup could use
undetectable stimulants derived from traditional African medicines
that aren’t currently banned substances.
FIFA medical committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe told The
Associated Press on Sunday that he wants the World Anti-Doping
Agency to analyze some African plants that could give athletes an
“I have a big concern – and I can confess that. We were
learning a lot about the traditional African medicines and we are
not sure what all of these products contain,” D’Hooghe said. “I
think some products are not detectable. This makes it difficult.
They can deliver stimulation and diuretic activity.”
D’Hooghe said he became aware of the extent of the issue at
FIFA’s medical conference this weekend in Sun City ahead of the
World Cup in South Africa, which starts June 11.
“We received a lot of examples, going from things that we know
but also going into absolutely unknown things for me. If I don’t
know the names, how can I know what they contain,” D’Hooghe said
of the plants. “This is certainly a challenge for WADA. …
“If we don’t have control over these specific traditional
medicines, then we can’t say we have control over all the
medication in football.”
In many African countries, plants provide the main source of
medicine. Umhlabelo, made of dried leaves from the Nidorella plant,
is believed to help heal bones and muscles. The Hoodia plant is
used as an appetite suppressant but also supposedly provides an
“More and more governments are legalizing the use of
traditional medicines, and that will compound the situation much
further,” warned Gurcharan Singh, a member of FIFA’s medical
South African team doctor Ntlopi Mogoru says some plants,
usually found in tropical African countries like Ghana, can produce
steroid byproducts that are not on WADA’s list and aren’t picked up
in doping tests.
“There is no way of knowing. That’s where the problem is,”
Mogoru told The AP. “In Africa, a lot of players use traditional
medicines and, unfortunately because of WADA, there are no tests to
detect those things and it becomes a bit of a problem for doping in
the whole world. It’s from the players’ cultural backgrounds.”
D’Hooghe thinks the $30 million FIFA spends annually on 33,000
doping tests could be better used on youth education since there
are only about 10 positive results.
D’Hooghe said he believes there is “no doping culture” among
the 260 million soccer players worldwide.