All eight squads present at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Estonia have been learning of the perils of doping. Richard Grisdale, from UEFA's Medical and Anti-Doping Unit, and Dr Jacques Liénard of the UEFA Anti-Doping Panel, have been keen to spread the message: "Be clean, be part of our team."
Both men gave presentations to the future footballing stars as part of UEFA's efforts to raise awareness of doping at youth tournaments. Before screening a short video of the highly sophisticated post-match anti-doping procedures at UEFA EURO 2008, Grisdale – during a session with the France team – issued a stark warning to the gathered players.
"Now that you are at the top, doping is an extremely important issue,"
he said. "There are a lot of risks you have to know about, as even a little mistake could lead to you being banned for up to two years and your football career possibly coming to an end as a consequence.
"If you test positive, even if it was by mistake, you will be the one considered solely responsible for what is in your body. You must pay close attention to supplements or the medicines that are on offer to you if you are sick, while recreational drugs are banned. If in doubt about what you are putting into your body, ask your team doctor or ask us."
These informative sessions have been a constant at UEFA youth tournaments since 2005, and they aim to deliver the message that each and every individual who gets involved in doping will gain no benefit and suffer only negative health and professional consequences as a result.
"Every single doping product is bad for your health and we do not want you losing years, or even decades of life expectancy by experimenting with them," Grisdale said before teaching the players the importance of the word respect when it comes to the issue.
"Doping is cheating, it's as simple as that," he said. "Our efforts here are all part of our respect campaign. We ask you to have respect for your opponents – and to have respect for yourselves; you don't want to cheat to win. You know a win gained by cheating is not the same as that done by fair means. At the end of the day, in our sport we want the team that wins to be the best at football, not the one who has cheated."
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