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Partnership key to keeping clean sports

UEFA is working closely with partners worldwide to ensure a footballer’s first experience of anti-doping is education, rather than a doping test.

Behind the scenes at UEFA U19 Futsal EURO 2022
Behind the scenes at UEFA U19 Futsal EURO 2022 UEFA via Getty Images

UEFA, the Council of Europe (CoE), International Sports Federations, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) work hand-in-hand to keep sport clean at all levels of the football pyramid.

With the CoE’s anti-doping education workshop, hosted at UEFA HQ this week, we asked Sophie Kwasny, Head of the Sport division, and Liene Kozlovska, Senior Programme Manager at the Anti-Doping Unit, to answer big questions on anti-doping and explain why a joined-up approach and education are critical to protecting sports’ integrity.

What is Council of Europe’s role in the fight against doping?

Sophie Kwasny: We are an intergovernmental organisation. It means that we support government actions and ensure that the policies and practices in place comply with laws and match the standards and the principles we promote in the fields of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. When it comes to sports and anti-doping, we typically exchange with sports ministries, national and international anti-doping agencies, or sports organisations like UEFA for instance. Our role is to bring all the stakeholders together and make recommendations to advance policies and practices.

How important is it for UEFA, the Council of Europe and other sports organisations to have a common approach to protect clean sports?

S.K: It’s crucial. You cannot fight doping alone; you need to involve all sports organisations. We communicate and exchange practices with those directly involved on the ground as well as with the governments enforcing the rules.

Liene Kozlovska: When tackling trafficking of doping substances, criminal responsibilities of doping promoters, as well as corruption and manipulation in sport, you need a very strong link with government agencies, such as law enforcement. One instrument of cooperation is the Anti-Doping Convention introduced in 1989. We regularly exchange on anti-doping policies with countries that have ratified the convention and organise specific subgroups if there is an emerging topic to tackle. For example, the CoE adopted last year a recommendation to ensure application of human rights principles in disciplinary proceedings, so that all the doping hearings are held in compliance with the Human Rights Convention.

Do the same rules apply to all?

S.K: The generic rules of integrity are the same for everyone and every sport, yes. Then you have some specificities on how you achieve such integrity depending on the different sports. Let’s say the key message is universal, and the way you deliver it must then be adapted and tailored to specific environments.

L.K: For example, from a human rights perspective, we are paying close attention to the most vulnerable groups such as minors, who may not be capable of recognising what substance they are being given or breaking the rules without even knowing it. With the rule of strict liability, the athlete caught with doping substances in his or her body is guilty. We need to make sure that young athletes understand what’s at stake and inform them as much as possible on the consequences they might face. Moving forward, we’re aiming for a working group on minors' protection in anti-doping.

Why are education and awareness on the subject so important?

S.K: Education is key. In the past, the focus was mainly put on sanctioning. Nowadays, the approach has shifted, and we are increasingly focusing on education. We often see cases where support staff or even parents surrounding young athletes are providing them with doping substances either intentionally or non-intentionally. Even if it’s done in good faith, because they have a small injury etc; it is still considered as doping. That’s why educating parents, coaches, athletes, and youth is important.

What is the main objective of the education workshops organised by the CoE and what improvements result from it?

S.K: I think exchange of good practices is crucial. Here, we have such an amazing group of experts, from different countries and various sport organisations, they all come with their experience, good ideas, and are providing inspiration to others. For sports organisations’ representatives, these meetings are an opportunity to be exposed to a network of specialists and to get involved and influence the drafting of education norms that will then have to be applied by all federations. For instance, this same group of experts helped supported WADA to develop the International Standard for Education, which is now compulsory for all international federations and all national anti-doping organisations.

L.K: It’s also interesting to see how smaller organisations with limited funding think outside the box and come up with ways of reaching out to their target groups. This lack of resources often feeds their creativity, and they are an inspiration for all of us.

How do you foresee the future of clean sports?

S.K: If you look at the average age of today's top-level athletes, and especially the next generation, they are the Gen-Z. If we don't know how to talk to them today, we cannot expect them to be knowledgeable once they start their professional career. The sooner we get the message across, the better the chances are that they will be capable of saying no to doping substances. If we use the rights methods, it will be already ingrained in their brain that it’s something they shouldn't even consider. We need to understand their codes and find the right arguments and message to get their attention.

What are some of the challenges faced in the fight against doping?

S.K: As mentioned, I think one of the challenges we are facing is how to talk to future generations. We are now trying our best to understand and talk to Gen-Z with the right messages. We’ll soon need to find specific educational messages for the even younger athletes who will be the rising stars of tomorrow.

Can you tell us more about UEFA and the Council of Europe’s joint work to prevent doping in football?

S.K: Back in 2018, the Council of Europe signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UEFA to strengthen the cooperation, notably in sports integrity, governance and human rights. The MoU is a commitment to work together, and it sets our joint high-level priorities.

UEFA was part of the Council of Europe’s bodies well before the MoU was signed. For decades, the organisation had an observer status to the CoE’s sport convention, with dynamic participation. UEFA experts join in discussions with the Saint Denis Convention's States parties about safety, security, and services at football matches.

Together with national delegations, UEFA participates in developing new standards and sharing best practice within the Anti-Doping Convention. More recently, UEFA has formally joined the CoE's work on the fight against manipulation of sports competitions as the Macolin Convention came into force in 2019.

Today's workshop is a good and practical example of the close and really fruitful cooperation we have on a number of different topics.

The CoE’s anti-doping education workshop took place at UEFA HQ in February 2023.
The CoE’s anti-doping education workshop took place at UEFA HQ in February 2023.UEFA

UEFA’s focus on anti-doping education

As part of UEFA’s anti-doping education strategy, UEFA’s 55 member associations receive funding from the UEFA HatTrick programme to deliver anti-doping education initiatives in collaboration with their National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs).

The aim of UEFA’s anti-doping education programme is to help athletes to stay clean, avoid accidental rule violations and support them in their desire for a level playing field, ensuring that players receive education as a first contact with anti-doping rather than a doping test.

“We are delighted to be hosting this CofE workshop, to support the promotion, development and coordination of anti-doping education at European level and beyond.

At UEFA, we are convinced that education is a fundamental pillar in the fight against doping. It is, in fact, the first line of defence to protect the rights of our athletes and the integrity of football.”

Marc Vouillamoz, UEFA's Head of Anti-Doping

More on UEFA’s anti-doping education initiatives

Anti-doping organisations - stronger together*

  • WADA develops, harmonises and coordinates anti-doping rules and policies globally.
  • National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) are designated as the primary authority at the national level, for anti-doping programmes and education.
  • The Council of Europe provides a framework and tools for preventing and detecting doping in sports, and promoting a level playing field for all athletes, and developed the Anti-Doping Convention to address doping in sports.
  • Europol plays a role in the fight against doping in sports by supporting investigations into the production, trafficking, and distribution of doping substances and related illegal activities.
  • The IOC established WADA in 1999 and collaborates with other international organisations involved in anti-doping to promote coordinated and effective action against doping in sports.
  • International Sports Organisations deliver anti-doping programmes at international level and require their national federations to cooperate with NADOs to promote anti-doping efforts.

* Roles and responsibilities may overlap in some cases, and they often work together to achieve common goals in the fight against doping in sports.

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