The eight teams competing at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship have taken time out from plotting a route to the trophy to hear the latest developments in UEFA's anti-doping drive.
All the teams have been given an hour-long presentation by Dr Mogens Kreutzfeldt and Richard Grisdale from UEFA's anti-doping unit, an educational session to raise awareness of UEFA's work in this area. There was a video presentation, a quiz and a question and answer session to provide players and backroom staff with all the information they need.
The session began with a video presentation filmed at UEFA EURO 2008, taking the audience through the doping control procedure in terms of notifying the player they are required for a test, the collection of blood and urine samples, the packing and transportation of the samples, and their subsequent analysis in a laboratory.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulates doping control worldwide, and provides a list of banned substances to which all sportsman must adhere. "It's the same rules for everyone," said Grisdale. "There are a lot of products on the banned list which may not enhance your performance but will still get you in trouble. Now that you're at the top level, you have to bear in mind all the time that these rules apply to you."
The ensuing quiz covered topics such as the role of the Doping Control Officer (DCO) – the only person who can permit a player to miss a test – the penalties for tampering with a doping control, types of doping offence and improper conduct at a doping control. "If it's in your body, you're responsible for it," Grisdale reminded his audience.
There are over 30,000 doping controls a year in football worldwide, with 60% of positive tests for recreational substances such as cannabis and cocaine. "It's a big problem in football," Grisdale added. "You're footballers now, and it's a really stupid way to ruin your career."
Dr Kreutzfeldt then offered a reminder of the dangers of taking common medicines and food supplements, emphasising that either can contain banned substances – a 2001 study by the International Olympic Committee found that 15% of nutritional supplements tested contained anabolic steroids. Kreutzfeldt pointed out that ignorance is no excuse, adding: "We cannot know if you are cheating or not. Players are ultimately responsible and they are the ones who will pay the price."
After Kreutzfeldt reiterated the dangers of anabolic steroids, particularly the health problems, Grisdale told those present about the Therapeutic Use Exemption, by which a player is permitted to take a banned substance for health reasons. He added a caveat, however, saying: "If you take something, even if it's completely innocent, and you don't do the right paperwork, you can still get banned. If in doubt, ask; it's your body and your responsibility."
The session concluded with a list of people who can provide that information to players – including team doctors, national anti-doping associations, UEFA's Anti-Doping Unit and UEFA.com – with pamphlets on UEFA's doping control procedure and one entitled Reading This Leaflet Could Save Your Career. "Be clean, stay away from these things and always try to do the right thing," Kreutzfeldt said.
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