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The dangers of doping and ruining promising careers has been brought home to players at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship in Switzerland.
All four teams have attended one-hour sessions in which they were told about various facets of UEFA's anti-doping campaign, as well as the procedures for the anti-doping controls which take place throughout all of UEFA's competitions.
The chairman of UEFA's anti-doping panel, Jacques Liénard, and Richard Grisdale from UEFA's anti-doping unit had an attentive audience when the Republic of Ireland's players and staff attended their session. Instructive sessions on anti-doping are conducted during the final tournaments of all UEFA youth competitions – in line with the view that young players can be particularly vulnerable to drug and substance-related problems. The younger they are advised, the easier it will be for them to avoid creating trouble for themselves.
Richard Grisdale presented a video showing the doping control procedure at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, as well as a message from Brazil's Ronaldinho which warns against the dangers of doping. "When you take certain medication, such as cough medicine bought in a supermarket, or if you buy nutritional supplements on the internet, you could test positive afterwards," Grisdale warned. "Because you are sportswomen, you're not considered as 'normal' – you are top-level athletes. There are things that are banned for you, but not other people. You must be very careful. There is no defence if you are caught."
Grisdale explained the various violations and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, as well as the WADA list of banned substances. "If you take a banned substance, you can be suspended for quite a long time," he said. "You can't refuse to take a test, even if you are chosen ten times in a row. You must not encourage or assist anyone, or cover up for someone taking something."
Jacques Liénard explained to the players about medication that can be bought over the counter – but which could prove to be positive in a doping control. He pointed out that there were even packets of two different types of tablets – one colour which would be safe, and another which would prove positive.
He pressed home the dangers of recreational drugs such as cannabis and cocaine, which could serve as a temptation for youngsters. "You might have a few puffs of a joint at a party – but the substance can stay in your system for a very long time and then, if you are tested, you will test positive." UEFA had registered a number of positive cases involving recreational drugs at youth tournaments in recent years.
As well as taking care, and not committing a violation – either intentional or unintentional – the Irish players, and by association, any other young players hopefully starting out on successful careers, were advised to contact team doctors if they had any doubts or questions. "Just ask," said Jacques Liénard and Richard Grisdale in closing the session. "It would be such a shame if you made a mistake."
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