World anti-doping chief John Fahey has accused FIFA and UEFA of ignoring reality,after they rejected rules that ease out-of-competition drugs testing of individual footballers.
“One of the key principles of efficient doping control is the surprise effect and the possibility to test an athlete without advance notice on a 365 day basis,” the World Anti Doping Agency President said in a statement.
“Alleging,as FIFA and UEFA do,that testing should only take place at training grounds and not during holiday periods,ignores the reality of doping in sport. Experience has demonstrated that athletes who cheat seize every opportunity to do so and dope when they believe they won’t be tested,” he added.
Since the beginning of January,the world anti-doping code requires elite athletes to give notice of their location on a chosen one-hour period each day,seven days a week.
“WADA was surprised and concerned to read the statement issued on March 24 by the world and European football governing bodies,FIFA and UEFA,in relation to universally harmonized whereabouts requirements that took effect on January 1,2009,” the anti-doping agency said.
The footballing bodies on Tuesday formally rejected the ‘whereabouts’ rule,arguing that team sport players should be treated differently.
UEFA chief Michel Platini and FIFA President Sepp Blatter had already signalled their opposition in recent weeks,reopening an old rift over the tougher global drive against doping in sports.
Blatter had been at loggerheads with WADA for years,mainly over the penalties for drug taking,and FIFA only came on board unified rules in May 2007 – the last Olympic-affiliated sports federation to do so.
This time,FIFA and UEFA stressed “the fundamental differences between an individual athlete,who trains on his own… and a team-sport athlete,who is present at the stadium six days out of seven,and thus easy to locate.”
They said the individual ‘whereabouts’ rule should be replaced by “collective location rules,within the scope of the team.”
But the anti-doping agency retorted on Wednesday that the code endorsed by its executive committee last May including by representatives of team sports – had already accommodated football’s demands.
It also allows teams to submit the location of their players collectively.
Anti-doping experts argue that some substances – especially new ‘designer’ drugs or tailored doping techniques disappear quickly from the body while keeping their performance-enhancing effects.
“Anti-doping organizations must therefore be able to test athletes at all times in an intelligent fashion,” Fahey insisted.
“WADA stakeholders have recognized this reality,and the feedback we have received from the overwhelming majority of other sports,but also from athletes and all those who support doping-free sport,strongly contradicts FIFA’s and UEFA’s stance.”
However,Blatter speaking in Copenhagen rejected the idea that it was just football who were in disagreement with WADA over the distinction between team and individual sports.
“I don’t want a fight,I just want them to understand,” said Blatter. “This is not just the line taken by football,but of all the team sports,basketball,handball,volleyball and rugby.”
Platini,also in Copenhagen,added: “Footballers can’t be under control 365 days in 365. We ask simply that players be left in peace when they are spending their holidays with their families.”