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UEFA's doping control officers (DCOs) have met at the House of European Football in Nyon for a seminar focusing on the various aspects of their work, as UEFA continues its concerted campaign against drug-taking in football.
The 46 DCOs are medical doctors who perform in and out-of-competition controls at matches in UEFA's competitions, from the elite club competitions to youth, women's and futsal tournaments. The officers are crucial components within UEFA's anti-doping drive, which has gained in impetus and importance in recent years with increased doping controls, out-of-competition testing, and a dedicated educational effort vis-a-vis young footballers at European youth and women's final rounds, to warn that drug-taking will not be tolerated within the sport.
The anti-doping campaign sits comfortably within UEFA's medical programme, led by the UEFA Medical Committee and its experienced chairman Dr Michel D'Hooghe, and which includes events such as the annual elite club team doctors forum, the UEFA Medical Syposium every four years and the invaluable UEFA injury study which provides a wealth of crucial information for comparisons and the detection of trends.
The UEFA head of match operations Marc Vouillamoz gave details of the in-competition (INCT) and out-of-competition (OOCT) testing programmes in 2008/09 and 2009/10. In the latter season, 1,098 players had been tested in competition so far, including 612 for EPO – the substance deployed to increase endurance, recuperation and physical strength. Three positive cases had been identified – two for the banned substance cathine and one for metabolites of cocaine.
As for out-of-competition tests in 2009/10, Vouillamoz explained that 476 players from all 32 teams in the UEFA Champions League group stage had been tested, and all had also been tested for EPO. One positive result for furosemide had been registered. "Although there were so few positive cases, we should not remain indifferent," emphasised the chairman of the anti-doping panel Jacques Liénard, who called for continued vigilance in the battle to eliminate doping from the game.
New UEFA anti-doping regulations are also in force since earlier this month, and the DCOs were appraised of the various amendments and developments which will have an impact on their jobs. In one example, the volume of the sample that a player must give during a doping control is still 90ml, and no change has been made to the rule about the specific gravity of samples (which must be 1.005 or higher when measured with a refractometer, or 1.010 or higher when measured with a test strip).
However, a number of UEFA DCOs were equipped on a trial basis in 2009/10 with digital refractometers to ascertain the best way of gauging the specific gravity of samples. The refractometer offers greater accuracy than test strips – following positive feedback from players, team personnel and DCOs, and after consultation with the world football body FIFA, all UEFA DCOs will be equipped with digital refractometers from the beginning of next season.
The seminar was split into an afternoon and morning session to enable the DCOs to exchange views and experiences, while question-and-answer sessions helped both UEFA and DCOs clarify a wide catalogue of issues involved in their duties. "Give no chances to those who cheat," was the message from Jacques Liénard who, in thanking the DCOs for their flexibility and dedication, also urged them to keep their performance high in quality and professional in attitude, to avoid any problems in the doping control procedure.
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