A workshop at UEFA’s European Union representative office in Brussels highlighted growing worries about grassroots players and doping, and the social harm and impact upon both users and sport communities.
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Concerns about the use of prohibited substances at football’s grassroots levels was the focal point of a workshop at UEFA’s European Union representative office in Brussels.
Discussions at the event highlighted growing worries about grassroots players and doping, and the social harm and impact upon both users and sport communities.
The aim of the event was to present ANTI DIF, a project co-funded by the European Commission (EC), through the Erasmus + Sport programme.
The project, ANTI DIF ‘Anti-Doping in Football – Keep Football Clean’, is coordinated by the Norwegian Football Association (NFF) - the first time that a UEFA national association has been a project coordinator of an Erasmus + Sport action. UEFA supports and supervises this project through its Brussels office and its anti-doping unit at the body’s Nyon headquarters.
The event was organised by the UEFA EU Brussels representative office in cooperation with the NFF within the framework of the European Week of Sport. The event and project are consistent with the Agreement for Cooperation signed by UEFA and the EC in September 2018.
The aim of the project is to gather educational materials to promote fair play and clean sport while, at the same time, developing a new learning methodology designed for grassroots football.
Participants at the Brussels workshop included delegates from UEFA, the EC, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Parliament, as well as national anti-doping agencies (NADOs), permanent representations to the EU, UEFA national associations and other organisations active in sports policy in Brussels.
“Historically, anti-doping efforts have focused on the detection and deterrence of doping in elite sport, and football has not been an exception,” says the Norwegian FA as leader of the ‘Anti-Doping in Football’ project.
“However, there is a growing concern among policymakers and sport stakeholders that doping outside the elite sporting system is an expanding and problematic phenomenon, giving rise to the belief that the misuse of doping agents in recreational sport has become a societal problem and a public health concern.”
The Brussels workshop featured a panel discussion on "Education as a tool to fight doping in grassroots football".
There was agreement that increased education initiatives were needed to show grassroots footballers the harmful effects of prohibited substances.
“Education is as crucial for grassroots players as for elite players,” said UEFA anti-doping and medical head Marc Vouillamoz. “We have to highlight that doping is dangerous for one’s health and contrary to fair play - but we also have to spread the message that many food supplements are contaminated with prohibited substances that may harm someones’s health.”
“While sports organisations and national anti-doping organisations will educate elite players, public authorities should play a prominent role to change perception in society. They should commit to delivering effective grassroots education programmes via the implementation of anti-doping awareness activities in school and in university curriculums.”
Coaches were urged to play a preventive role at grassroots level. “Educating coaches is key if we want to achieve concrete results in the fight against doping at the grassroots level,” was the view of Cassandra Matilde Fernandes, CoE Sport Conventions Division senior project manager.
Yves Le Lostecque, sports unit head at the EC’s Directorate General for Education and Culture, felt that a variety of measures and actions were needed to take the fight against doping to grassroots level. “Sensibilisation, legislation, sanctions. But talking more specifically about the grassroots sector, education and prevention play the most significant role”.
“An athlete is a human being who can make mistakes,” European Parliament member Tiziana Beghin reflected. “Rehabilitation programmes based on education and awareness raising are needed.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) welcomed the workshop as a demonstration of the united commitment by UEFA and key stakeholders to combatting doping in football.
“We are glad to know that we are not alone,” said Florence Lefebvre-Rangeon, WADA’s senior manager for government and NADO relations. “And that there are other institutions like the ones represented today who are truly committed to fighting doping in both elite and grassroots football...it is crucial that we join forces.”