They may not operate in the limelight like the players or referees, but the 12 doping and blood control officers (DCOs and BCOs) at UEFA EURO 2008™ are performing a vital service of which they are justifiably proud.
Working in teams of two they are travelling across Switzerland and Austria taking both urine and blood samples from a pair of randomly selected players from each team at every match and immediately delivering them back to the Swiss doping analysis laboratory in Lausanne. Just as for referees, UEFA picks carefully when deciding on who will carry out the drug tests at major competitions. "We have picked the best and the most experienced DCOs and BCOs on the panel," confirmed Marc Vouillamoz, head of the UEFA anti-doping unit.
Among that select dozen is Dr Ilija Stoilov from F.Y.R. Macedonia, a specialist in sports medicine who began to study the damaging effect of performance-enhancing substances 15 years ago. He set up the anti-doping unit of the Football Federation of F.Y.R. Macedonia and served on the UEFA Medical Committee. "It is my pleasure to do this job as it helps make the competition as fair as possible and also prevents players damaging their health," Stoilov said. "It is my pleasure to work as a DCO and working in UEFA is also a dream for everyone who is dedicated to this sport. I am pleased to be part of this tournament."
It is not easy work, though. "This job is very exciting and you are constantly under big pressure from the beginning to the end of the control," Stoilov said. "The game can be very exciting and players, especially those who have lost, can be very stressed. So you have to calm down the players and do your job in a professional manner. And sometimes the control can last for two to four hours, you finish early in the morning and cannot go to the hotel but straight to the airport to catch the first flight to get back to the lab. It is a job which may look like an easy job, but it is very exciting, under big pressure, and you need a lot of experience, a good psychological make-up and have to be very aware of all the possibilities that can arise during the control."
But every co-operation is given by the players, who also are backing the start of blood testing. "Working with these players, these stars, these agents from God, could seem to be very difficult but they are very polite and accept my job," Stoilov confirmed. "In my pre-tournament out-of-competition test in the Netherlands some of the players told me, 'It is wonderful to start blood doping control because we want our match to be as fair as possible'. So they are aware of doping and don't accept and don't want cheating."
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