UEFA has continued its anti-doping campaign with a series of educational presentations to the eight teams taking part in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Austria.
The eight hour-long sessions have been led by Dr Mogens Kreutzfeldt and Caroline Thom, carrying on a programme that began at the U19 finals in Northern Ireland two years ago and that now encompasses all youth final tournaments and the European U21 Championship. The aim of these events is to educate players in the dangers of doping, both in terms of their careers and their health, and to talk them through the procedure for a doping control in competition.
'Doping is cheating'
Thom has started each session with a definition of doping and has reiterated UEFA's stance on the issue – with a possible ban of two years for a first offence. "Doping is cheating," said Thom. "It's cheating yourself, your team, your fans, friends and family." She has gone on to emphasise the risks to players' health and careers, saying: "You are responsible, you will be considered to have committed the infraction and you are the one who will be sanctioned."
The detailed explanation of UEFA's in-competition doping procedure takes the players from the moment they are notified that they are required for a doping control through to how a sample is collected and then the documentation that has to be completed, among other things. Dr Kreutzfeldt has then run through the prohibited substances, warning players that common medicines can contain prohibited substances and that the sanctions remain the same with the message: "Be very careful – we have no way of knowing if you're cheating or if you've made a terrible mistake."
Dr Kreutzfeldt has also discussed the importance of caution regarding food supplements, underlining the dangers of contamination, and has also discussed recreational drugs. "There's a serious health risk if you take illegal substances," he said, before explaining that certain medicines are permitted in the event of illness or injury with a therapeutic use exemption certificate, provided the correct protocol is followed. "It's your responsibility to ensure the team doctor is informed and the paperwork is done correctly. You're the one who pays the price if there is a problem."
The sessions have concluded with a reminder of how UEFA has stepped up its anti-doping drive in recent years, with increased testing for the 32 teams in the UEFA Champions League and more in-competition tests than ever in 2006/07. The players have been informed of all the people who can answer any questions they might have, and have been guided towards uefa.com's new Training Ground section which contains a detailed anti-doping section promoted by Ronaldinho with the message: "Be clean – be part of my team." A video has then been shown featuring the likes of Frank Rijkaard, Paolo Maldini and Henrik Larsson warning players of the dangers of doping, with UEFA President Michel Platini adding: "Don't take drugs, they won't make you a better player."
Message getting through
Thom told uefa.com: "We realised before we started these sessions two years ago that most positive tests came from recreational drugs. This season we've had no positive tests for social drugs at youth tournaments compared to four the previous year. The message is being given to the players and they're passing it on. At this age, players need more information – they're starting to join clubs and enter a more open world and it's a good time to talk to them. We have to give them the tools to make sure they're informed."
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