UEFA has launched a new anti-doping education strategy – based on financial support which will enable its 55 member associations to run education activities to help footballers stay clean.
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The strategy provides for targeted funding to associations via the UEFA HatTrick programme, and aims in particular to make sure that players’ first experience with anti-doping is education, rather than a doping test.
Education’s crucial role
Football is the most tested sport in the world, and UEFA conducts the third highest number of doping tests of all sports bodies, with over 3,000 samples collected per season.
UEFA carries out doping controls in all its competitions. Consequently, it is crucial that, as a minimum requirement, players from national associations’ national teams and clubs that qualify for UEFA competitions receive education prior to competing at international level.
Players and player support personnel should also be given the information, guidance and support which enables them to make informed decisions about doping. The objective is to develop players who choose to be clean rather than be deterred by the fear of getting caught, and to protect clean footballers from accidentally committing anti-doping rule violations.
To receive funding via the UEFA HatTrick programme, Europe’s national associations will be required to deliver anti-doping education activities that are designed to raise awareness, inform, instil values, and develop decision-making abilities in players and player-support staff to prevent intentional and unintentional doping.
UEFA member associations can apply for funding for the following activities:
• Awareness – running campaigns to promote, support and reinforce a clean sport environment;
• Information – providing accurate, up-to-date anti-doping material for players and player-support personnel;
• Education – delivering high-quality anti-doping training for players and player-support personnel
Athletes should complete anti-doping education at least once every two years to ensure that their knowledge is up to date. This could be via a face-to-face session, webinar or e-learning.
To ensure the effectiveness of the funding, member associations are being asked to prepare and submit an education plan to UEFA on a yearly basis. They will also be required to monitor and evaluate their programmes each year and share their assessment with UEFA.
“Anti-doping education is a crucial pillar in the fight against doping, and is the first line of defence in protecting the rights of football players and the integrity of our sport,” said UEFA’s medical and anti-doping head Marc Vouillamoz.
“Education will help players to remain clean, avoid accidental rule violations and support them in their desire for a level playing field.”
UEFA member associations are being asked to work together with National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) to prepare and deliver an education programme in their specific country.
NADOs are considered as the authority on education relating to clean sport in their countries, and they aim to ensure that every athlete receives education prior to their first test. “Therefore, it is vital that [associations] work together with NADOs to prepare an education plan,” said Vouillamoz.
Meeting international standards
Co-operation between UEFA and NADOs is also in line with the World Anti-Doping Code, which UEFA follows when implementing its overall anti-doping programme. The code sets out the anti-doping rules, regulations and policies that must be followed by sports organisations worldwide, and is complemented by a series of mandatory International Standards.
UEFA’s new anti-doping education drive comes in response to a new International Standard for Education introduced at the start of this year, which sets out the principles and minimum levels that education programmes must achieve, and outlines the roles that sports organisations and NADOs must play in terms of educating athletes.
One of the primary responsibilities of international federations is to ‘require national Federations to conduct Education in cooperation with the applicable National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO)’.
“It is therefore crucial for UEFA to work with our member associations to ensure that effective anti-doping education is provided to football players at national level,” said Vouillamoz.
Since players and player-support personnel must not be put at risk of inadvertent doping as a result of misinformation, the UEFA education initiative stipulates that all education sessions must be delivered by a trained and competent person.
Given the key role that team doctors play in anti-doping in football, UEFA is strongly recommending that associations enlist the support of team doctors – who may be the most suitable people to deliver education sessions to players – before establishing an education plan with their NADO.
Promoting clean sport
European football’s popularity means that the game is ideally placed to have a positive influence on impacting the behaviour of young people.
Through its new drive, UEFA is not only ensuring that football players across Europe have access to relevant, high quality anti-doping education, but also to utilise the game’s position to promote positive attitudes towards clean sport.
“With the impetus provided by the WADA International Standard for Education, and the financial support granted by HatTrick funding,” Marc Vouillamoz said, “UEFA wants to take the opportunity to:
• Increase the quantity of anti-doping education in European football
• Improve the quality of the education that is already taking place
• Enhance the coordination of anti-doping education
“We need to make sure,” Vouillamoz concluded, “that in the search for top performance, there is absolutely no excuse for anyone – players and teams – not to play clean.”