Young footballers are especially vulnerable to the dangers of doping – and UEFA's educational drive to raise awareness has continued at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final round in Nyon.
The four teams taking part – France, Germany, Iceland and Spain – came to the House of European Football to watch a presentation by Dr Mogens Kreutzfeldt, third vice-chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, and Mike Earl, UEFA medical and anti-doping coordinator. Both made it clear to the young players that drugs and doping can ruin promising careers before they have started.
The session began with a video presentation of doping control procedures at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland – showing how the test is conducted, how players are chosen, the formalities that have to be followed, and how the test samples are dealt with in terms of being taken to laboratories and analysed.
Mike Earl gave examples of the rules that must be followed by players – "there is nothing that can have a bigger impact on your career than committing an anti-doping rule violation. You can be suspended for as much as two years, even if you accidentally have a violation," he said.
Rules throughout the world are laid down by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which has compiled a list of prohibited substances that footballers are not allowed to take. "You need to remember that every time you go to take a medicine, or a treatment because you're sick, think of that banned list, and go and check with your doctor," Earl continued.
The presentation also involved various questions: What happens if a player behaves in an improper manner at a doping control? What constitutes a doping offence? What if a player refuses a doping test? It was also revealed that a violation is also committed if a player helps someone else to "dope" or deals in drugs. "Don't get involved," said Earl, "it's not worth it." Players must never manipulate samples, as discovery would also lead to suspension. "There are eight different ways in which you could possibly end up with a ban," Earl emphasised, explaining that over 30,000 drug-tests are conducted in football each year.
Dr Kreutzfeldt told the players. "We know that you probably have no intention of doing anything that will put you in trouble – you are at the beginning of your careers. But one thing that might destroy your career is to make a mistake."
Dr Kreutzfeldt stressed that taking common medicines and food supplements also carried its dangers, and some contain prohibited substances – it was up to players to know that they are responsible for what they take. "If in doubt, ask," Dr Kreutzfeldt took great pains to underline. Accidental or unintentional taking of a banned substance did not constitute an excuse.
A particularly foolish way to commit an offence was to take recreational drugs such as cannabis or cocaine – "stay away from these drugs, we will find them in the urine," said Dr Kreutzfeldt. Traces of such drugs can still be found for some time after they have been taken. Some 60% of all positive cases in football come from recreational drugs – marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy.
The young WU17 players were given an information leaflet and a booklet explaining doping procedures. They left having heard a clear message. "You have promising football careers before you – don't ruin things for yourselves through doping."
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