Is it now time we talked about drugs in the beautiful game?

The prize is so big it is hard to believe some players aren’t tempted

Doping is an area we hear very little about in football but I believe there is more happening than we see on the back pages of the newspapers.

First of all, what is doping? It is defi ned as the use of banned athletic performance-enhancing drugs by athletic competitors. Th us giving the athlete, in this case a footballer, an unfair advantage over his/her competitors. Th e defi nition alone provides a strong case for why a footballer would consider doping.

Football is an extremely competitive sport, but the rewards in terms of fame and salary are astronomical. With the diff erence between making it and not making it being so small, surely doping is too good an opportunity to turn down for some players?

Consider this hypothetical situation: A second or third choice Championship striker watches the fi rst choice forward go down injured, then later discovers he is to be out for six weeks. He knows he has a chance to prove himself, and he is desperate to impress not just his own club, but scouts from the Premier League. Taking a performance-enhancing drug could be the diff erence between a 350k a year salary, to a near £2 million a year salary

Would you risk it for that kind of money? Let me tell you more about regulations before you make up your mind. With the amount of money in the game, you’d like to believe there are strict testing procedures in place for doping. But are there? The FA says it conducted ‘drug testing both in competition (post match) and out of competition (at training sessions and player’s home addresses)’ and that players can be ‘selected for a drug test in either a random or a targeted basis’.

In 2014/2015 the FA said they took 2,286 samples and I found this to be a very vague figure for a number of reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t say how many leagues that these samples are spread over. Even if it was just samples from Premier League players, which I will assume it is to avoid bias, it isn’t a great deal of testing. This figure could be 44 players tested 52 times each or once a week. Or it could be 700 players only a few times a year.

Both these cases would have their faults. Out of those 2,286 samples, there were only nine positive tests but that doesn’t mean only nine players were doping. And do you remember hearing that nine players were doping? Let’s first consider testing 44 players once a week, which would be hugely biased against these players.

This would be frequent enough to catch the use of substances such as propionate as ‘complete elimination of exogenous testosterone (propionate) will likely take between 11 days and 16.5 days after your final dose’. More than 950 players played in the 2014/2015 Premier League season. So, if this extreme where 44 individuals were being tested was deemed a necessary amount, some 906 players would be test free. Obviously this is not the case but it was just to put into context the lack of testing.

Also, let’s consider the other case, which is a far more likely situation, if a player is only tested a few times a year, I believe this also shows a lack of testing. Some players and managers have hit out at the regulations for doping. One big believer that doping exists is Arsene Wenger. He has been quoted as saying: ‘In 30 years as a manager I’ve never had my players injected to make them better.’ But later stated: ‘I’ve played against many teams that weren’t in that frame of mind.’

This could be a strop from the Arsenal manager, which we all know he is capable of, but he was subject to a loss when Dinamo Zagreb’s Arijan Ademi was doping. Joey Barton also appeared to back up Arsene’s claims saying he never had blood tested. He wrote: ‘Only urine, in numerous tests over 10 plus years of competing at elite level sport’. This is obviously not a sufficient test. The FA claim, however, to take both urine and blood samples in every sample they carry out.

From all of this I think we can see that it is probable that doping is a bigger issue than it is made out to be. But I believe teamwide doping probably doesn’t exist as such an operation would be immensely difficult to carry out. Lance Armstrong’s team was much smaller and the complexities of his ‘program’ were huge. Finally, I will leave you with a few questions to consider and discuss with others.

More than 3,500 players have played in the Premier League and only one has been banned as a result of performance enhancing drugs. Is this too perfect? What would happen to football if mass doping were to be unveiled? We saw what happened to cycling.

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