Anti-doping education for Under-19 talents

"Be vigilant and you will have a successful career" was the message to teams at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship as UEFA experts led them through the minefield of doping.

The ninth UEFA European Under-19 Championship provided UEFA with the perfect platform to educate the rising stars of the European game on the importance of avoiding the perils of doping through sound education and awareness.

Hosted by the chairman of UEFA's anti-doping panel and member of the Medical Committee, Dr Jacques Liénard, and anti-doping manager Caroline Thom, each of the eight competing teams were given instructional and constructive guidelines into the necessary processes and procedures that are undertaken at football grounds all over Europe throughout the season.

Thom immediately put the young athletes at ease by leading them through the information using a question and answer style tutorial. "You are responsible for whatever is found in your body," she said, warning the players to "be very careful. A total of 33,445 tests were carried out by WADA – the World Anti-Doping Agency – in 2008, 78 of which were found to be positive."

The anti-doping manager informed her audience when they might be expected to give a urine sample – in or out of competition – and the procedure they should be aware of when doing so. She also explained that the amount of urine required for analysis must meet a specific gravity in order to be compliant with regulations.

Dr Liénard covered the prohibited list of banned substances and the therapeutic use exemption (TUE) certificate, whereby a player afflicted with a condition such as asthma or diabetes can apply to take a banned substance for medical reasons. He highlighted the consumption of food supplements as particularly hazardous, saying: "Be extra cautious of food supplements particularly when purchased online. According to a study conducted by the WADA-accredited laboratory, up to 15% of food supplements bought in 15 European countries contained some form of steroids."

The players were reminded that they should always follow the guidelines published by WADA prior to taking medicines – especially as products of the same make and name could have different components in other European countries and may even contain banned substances. There were also examples of the length of time a banned substance can stay inside the body and the side effects one can expect to experience if these substances are ingested. "It's a trap you must not fall into," Liénard said.

He wrapped up the session by advising the players to develop a strong relationship with their team doctor and to speak to them about any doubts they may have. "Be vigilant, be cautious and you will have a successful career," he said before encouraging all present to pick up the two leaflets entitled 'Reading this could save your football career' and 'UEFA Doping Control Procedure' which were available to all in their mother tongue.