"There is nothing else that can have such an impact on your career" – this is the message delivered to players during a series of anti-doping sessions at this year's UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Serbia.
Each of the eight teams involved in the tournament are being advised on doping issues and procedures during presentations carried out by Mike Earl, UEFA's medical and anti-doping coordinator, and Jacques Liénard, chairman of UEFA's anti-doping panel.
Earl informed the youngsters that anti-doping rule violations can result in bans of two years as standard. As well as recreational drugs and nutritional supplements, the perils of certain banned substances in medication are also highlighted.
With many players likely to undergo testing during their careers, a video was shown detailing the post-match procedure they will go through should they be randomly drawn to provide a sample. While a positive test is the biggest danger for a player, refusal to take the test – or helping someone else to commit a rule violation – can also result in a ban.
"Doping controls are now an integral part of football," said Earl, who continually stressed to the players that it is they who are ultimately responsible for what is in their body. He did, however, add that they should always seek advice from trusted club or member association staff should they be in any doubt about how to avoid an accidental rule violation.
Liénard informed the attendees that they can seek an exemption should they need to take medication which includes a banned substance, though they must go through the proper channels in to do so. In concluding the session, Earl emphasised that players should understand their responsibilities and should they have any doubt about banned substances , the mantra to remember is "check, check and check again".
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