UEFA's work against anti-doping has continued at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Lithuania with presentations to each of the participating teams.
Led by Caroline Thom, UEFA's anti-doping and medical project manager, the session started with an information video taking the players through the doping control procedure. Filmed at UEFA EURO 2012, it showed how blood and urine samples are collected from players and how the doping control station is prepared. A half-time draw determines which two players from each side will be tested at the end of the game, and players are told that they have to go straight to doping control as soon as they leave the pitch – they are not permitted to return to the dressing room.
The video then revealed how the samples are collected – usually the blood is taken first, although the player has the choice – and sealed under the observation of the doping control officer. The samples follow a strict chain of custody from the moment the sample is sealed to when it is opened for testing. It was then pointed out that four players were tested at every UEFA EURO 2012 match: all 124 tests returned negative results.
Thom outlined UEFA's stance against doping, underlining that it is about respect and a level playing field, to protect the image of football and players' health. The rules and prohibited list are established by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and anti-doping rule violations; a positive test result, possession of a banned substance, tampering with doping control and refusing to take a test being among the infringements. Thom reminded her audience of the principle of strict liability, stating: "Whatever's in your body is your responsibility – you're the one who will be punished."
It was also emphasised that players are allowed treatment if they are ill or injured, provided a therapeutic use exemption certificate (TUE) is completed. "Check with your team doctor before you take anything," said Thom, who made clear that common medicines can contain different – potentially prohibited – ingredients in different countries.
To highlight the point, several high-profile examples of players who have been banned for testing positive for prohibited substances were given, including Kolo Touré (diuretic) and Paddy Kenny (ephedrine). "Even top players can make silly mistakes," said Thom, who went on to illustrate the dangers of nutritional supplements. "There's a high risk of contamination, and no supplement is 100% certain to contain no banned substances – there is always a risk. Check with your nutritionist and club doctor to check if you really need it."
Thom declared that one of the most significant dangers is recreational drugs – of all football doping tests worldwide, 60% of the positive results are caused by recreational drugs. "You can easily get caught – it's very dangerous," she said, before singling out some of the consequences of doping. Aside from the impact on health, a positive test can end a player's career, damage the reputation of their club and football, and have a negative impact on the team's results.
Help is at hand, however, with players advised to contact their team doctor, national anti-doping agency or UEFA with any questions or concerns. Furthermore, two leaflets were distributed to supply more information: a step-by-step breakdown of UEFA's doping control procedure for players and an information booklet entitled 'Reading this leaflet could save your football career'.
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