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UEFA anti-doping programme Q&A

Following recent media comment on football and doping, here is a detailed explanation of UEFA's dynamic, multi-faceted and intelligence-led anti-doping programme.

UEFA anti-doping programme Q&A
UEFA anti-doping programme Q&A ©UEFA.com

There has been criticism that football overall, and UEFA specifically, are not doing enough testing for doping in football. How does UEFA respond?

Football does more anti-doping tests than any other sport. In 2014 there were more tests – 31,242 – in football than in any other sport (WADA anti-doping testing figures 2014). UEFA itself carried out a total of 2,318 tests. This is more than any other regional sports testing organisation.

What about media reports suggesting that players are not getting tested enough?

UEFA's testing is not done in isolation. Instead, UEFA works with national anti-doping agencies in European countries to share information and ensure intelligent targeted testing.

UEFA has a dynamic, multi-faceted and intelligence-led programme in which participating clubs, players – and, indeed, coaches – can have the fullest confidence. UEFA will never accept doping, and remains at the forefront of efforts to keep football free from doping.

UEFA is working in close collaboration with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and is regularly keeping the monitoring Agency informed about the evolution of the UEFA anti-doping programme, to permanently evaluate its robustness. WADA is also very pleased with UEFA's approach in actively collaborating with all stakeholders, including the national anti-doping agencies.

And what about reports that UEFA is only visiting clubs every few years?

This is simply not true. Each team in this year's UEFA Champions League is subjected to intensive match and out-of-competition testing. Approximately 50 out-of-competition visits take place to UEFA Champions League clubs each season, with ten players tested each time.

But surely players can avoid these tests?

No – UEFA's whereabouts programme requires all teams participating in the UEFA Champions League to submit training and absence whereabouts information for their players. The whereabouts submission period commences at the beginning of the UEFA Champions League group stage, and ends when the team is notified by UEFA (the day after they are eliminated from the competition).

The whereabouts programme ensures that all players make themselves available for no-notice doping controls. Under strict new WADA compliant whereabouts criteria, players who are absent from training have to provide us with a 60-minute time-slot for testing. Players can therefore, if necessary, be tested individually out-of-competition, for example at their home. Furthermore, team whereabouts are also shared with participating national anti-doping agencies in Europe, in order to increase testing possibilities at domestic level.

It should also be remembered that the same players are tested at national level both in and out-of-competition, and by FIFA when competing in the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

These tests obviously also serve as a deterrent, and teams and players know they can be tested pretty much anytime, anywhere, in combination. Sharing intelligence with national agencies and the implementation of the new biological passport for players ensure close monitoring, and allow targeting of players and teams.

What is the biological passport all about?

The programme will help create biological profiles for players. The Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) monitors players' selected biomarkers over time, and may indirectly reveal the effects of doping as a result, as well as providing intelligence for target testing. UEFA is using the ADAMS WADA database in order to combine ABP testing data with participating European national anti-doping agencies.

In this respect, the steroid profiling programme will boost the deterrent of UEFA's testing programme, as it will complement existing direct anti-doping testing. Everybody must be aware that doping practices not detected by traditional testing will not escape long-term profiling.

But UEFA is not doing enough blood testing to catch players – as one critic said: "A little blood test takes a minute and you can test for much more"?

Blood testing is a key part of UEFA's anti-doping programme. UEFA has in fact been testing blood since 2008, starting with the EURO final tournament hosted by Austria and Switzerland.  In the 2014/2015 season, UEFA carried out 2,388 tests – 2,073 urine tests and 315 blood tests, which is now part of our standard testing programme.

However, it should be noted that anti-doping scientists have confirmed that most banned substances are still detected in urine, not blood.  Direct blood testing allows detection of some additional substances, but today it cannot simply replace urine testing. The GNK Dinamo Zagreb player Arijan Ademi has been suspended for four years following a positive urine doping test at the UEFA Champions League match against Arsenal FC on matchday one this season.

How many doping tests are conducted in the UEFA Champions League?

A total of 1,081 samples were collected in the UEFA Champions League last season – 813 urine and 268 blood. As from the play-off round, UEFA carried out controls at 56% of all matches, where two players from each team were tested, providing 324 urine and 36 blood samples. From the round of 16 onwards, all matches were tested. Out-of-competition controls were also carried out on players from all 32 teams in the Champions League group stage. The UEFA doping control officers (DCOs) made 49 visits to clubs, and collected 489 urine and 232 blood samples.

What about the doping tests in the UEFA Europa League?

Last season in the UEFA Europa League, controls were carried out at 147 matches, with a total of 588 urine and 31 blood samples collected.

Do you also control players in youth tournaments?
Almost 700 samples were collected by UEFA in other competitions during the 2014/15 season, including national team competitions, as well as women's and futsal competitions. Out of the samples collected, 340 were in the various national team and club youth competitions.

Will UEFA also be strengthening its anti-doping programme for UEFA EURO 2016?

The UEFA EURO 2016 anti-doping programme will comprise extensive out-of-competition testing prior to the start of the tournament for all 24 teams. Team whereabouts will be required and shared with the participating European national anti-doping agencies. In-competition testing will involve testing at all 51 matches, with over 200 individual tests taking place. For out-of and in-competition testing, blood, urine and serum samples will be taken for each tested player.

And what about the punishments for players who are caught?

UEFA adheres to penalties for doping offences as outlined in the World Anti-Doping Code.  This includes the imposition of a four-year suspension for a first serious doping offence. As mentioned above, just last week the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body suspended Dinamo Zagreb's Arijan Ademi for four years following a positive doping test for the prohibited anabolic steroid stanozolol at the UEFA Champions League match with Arsenal.

And do you think it is fair to only punish players and not their teams?

The provisions included in UEFA's Anti-Doping regulations for teams in the event of anti-doping rule violations are fully compliant with Article 11 of the WADA Code, which states: "Where more than one team member in a team sport has been notified of a possible anti-doping rule violation the team shall be subject to target testing for the event. If more than two team members in a team sport are found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation during the event, the team may be subject to disqualification or other disciplinary action."

What does UEFA do to inform and educate players against doping?

Educational materials are distributed to all players in UEFA competitions to help raise their awareness of anti-doping matters, inform them about UEFA's anti-doping regulations and procedures, and prevent them from committing procedural errors.

In addition, an accompanying education programme is aimed specifically at young players. Instructive sessions on anti-doping are conducted during the final tournaments of all UEFA youth competitions, along with outreach programmes that aim to reinforce the important message.

Is UEFA storing samples, and for what reasons?

In 2015/16 UEFA is introducting a long-term storage programme for samples to increase deterrence. UEFA will then be in a position to re-analyse any samples when required as a result of intelligence being received or new analytical techniques becoming available.