The eighth UEFA European Under-19 Championship marks the latest stage in UEFA's ongoing fight against doping in football, with the eight teams in Ukraine all attending educational sessions.
The sessions in Donetsk and Mariupol were taken by Dr Jacques Liénard, chairman of UEFA's anti-doping panel and member of the medical committee, and Mike Earl, the Football Association's doping control programme manager. "The UEFA anti-doping programme is for your benefit," Earl told the players. "To protect you and to make sure you don't get beaten by another team or player who may have taken performance-enhancing drugs."
The hour-long educational sessions featured a video from UEFA EURO 2008™, where players were tested at all 31 matches. The video illustrated the anti-doping procedures, including the collection of blood and urine samples, their collection and protection, transportation and laboratory analysis. "The goal is to make sure the competition is played in a fair way and in a fair spirit, and to protect the health of the players," said UEFA's head of anti-doping Marc Vouillamoz. The video concluded with a message from Brazilian star Ronaldinho: "Be clean – be part of my team".
Earl and Dr Liénard then led the group through a quiz, which can be found on the Training Ground section of uefa.com, along with a wide range of additional information on anti-doping. Topics covered included the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list and the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) certificate, whereby a player can apply to take a banned substance for medical reasons. "There's nothing as a player that could keep you out of the game for as long as a positive drugs test, so it's really important to understand the basic rules," Earl added.
Changes in procedure
The players were then informed by Dr Liénard of changes in the doping control tests that came into force on 1 January 2009; the amount of urine they are required to provide has increased from 75ml to 90ml, while there is now a minimum specific gravity it has to meet. Earl and Dr Liénard reminded the players that they should always check the WADA prohibited list before taking medicines – particularly as some products contain different, banned, substances in different countries. They also provided a list of some of the side effects for both men and women of taking performance-enhancing drugs and the length of time recreational drugs stay in the body.
'This could save your career'
Earl summarised by saying: "There's two key points for you to take away from this session. Check everything and if you're not sure, ask your team's medical staff. We definitely don't want people to test positive accidentally – and always submit to a drug test when asked to do so. Also, uefa.com is a good place for you to look if you want more information on things like the WADA prohibited list, anti-doping regulations, TUE certificates and so on." In case the players were still in any doubt of the seriousness of anti-doping, they left with two leaflets; one taking them through UEFA's doping control procedure step by step and another entitled 'Reading this leaflet could save your football career'.
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