FIFA, WADA aim for anti-doping scheme in football

BY foxsports • October 17, 2009

FIFA and the World Anti-Doping Agency are set to team up on an anti-doping project to test Europe's top footballers for banned drugs. FIFA chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak said Saturday that a blood-profiling scheme similar to cycling's biological passport could start trials next month. "Blood testing in-competition is the future of anti-doping for football and other sports," Dvorak told The Associated Press at FIFA's inaugural medical conference. FIFA boss Sepp Blatter and WADA president John Fahey will meet Oct. 29 in Zurich to discuss the project, and potentially approve a pilot scheme. Dvorak said the idea is supported by players at Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, which were all approached before their Champions League semifinals last April. "The request went through the team physicians and they agreed," Dvorak said. FIFA wants clubs to volunteer players to give at least four out-of-competition samples of blood and urine to help create an individual body chemistry profile that would reveal evidence of doping. Clubs taking part would be excused from routine testing programs, but players would still be subjected to further tests after matches. "If we had any indication that somebody is manipulating his body we could do targeted tests," Dvorak said. Results would be analyzed by the WADA laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, which monitors 850 professional riders in the cycling scheme. "They are the best," said Dvorak, who also has consulted the International Cycling Union on its pioneering program launched in partnership with WADA. WADA director general David Howman attended Saturday to learn more of FIFA's proposal. "We're talking about advancing it further and ultimately getting in contact with teams," Howman told The AP. "We have several ideas that we're hoping will be the subject of the meeting with the FIFA president." The project confirms a new warmth in relations between football's global governing body and world sport's doping watchdog. The two organizations had a public dispute earlier this year when FIFA insisted players should not be held to the strictest standards of reporting their whereabouts that is demanded in other sports to allow doping control teams to conduct surprise visits. Agreement was reached when FIFA proposed an "at risk" category of players for targeted testing. This pool includes elite players in the lucrative Champions League, those recovering from injury and those who previously used a banned substance. Blood profiling could also save FIFA money and fulfill WADA's aim of "more quality, less quantity" in its anti-doping mission. Football currently spends $30 million (?20.2 million) each year on conducting 30,000 tests, at a rate of $3 million (?2 million) for each steroid user caught, Dvorak told conference delegates. "There is so much money spent on the fight against doping. We can't just go on testing forever," he said. The two-day conference attracted national team doctors and federation officials from around the world to share research and recommend projects to minimize risks to players' health. Federations were urged to screen players at top clubs for potential heart defects. The tests are mandatory for international players before FIFA tournaments. Algerian doctor Yacine Zerguini said 2,100 tests were conducted after players from his national league's top three divisions were targeted. Medical and family history records were now attached to player registrations held by the Algerian federation. FIFA stated its coinfidence in MRI wrist scans to determine the age of teenage players, amid concern that some countries falsified birth certificates to select older players for age group tournaments. "Age doping is a form of cheating," Gurcharan Singh of Malaysia told the conference. Singh said doctors were 99 percent certain that a player whose wrist bones had fused was at least 17 years old. National federations were urged to conduct the tests in qualifying tournaments months before a team reached the Under-17 World Cup. FIFA medical chief Dvorak said players should stop using food supplements, which could be contaminated with banned substances and were supported by "no rational evidence" they improved players' health. Federations were advised to schedule matches to avoid playing in the hottest temperatures. Delegates were told players could run for 93 minutes in 10-degree heat Celsius before being fatigued, but only 51 minutes in 30-degree heat.

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