UEFA’s comprehensive anti-doping activities – dedicated to keeping football clean – have continued to thrive amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The 2020/21 season served to reinforce UEFA’s commitment to nurturing and maintaining top-quality performance in tough and unprecedented circumstances.
Among the key successes in the anti-doping sector were the launch of an ambitious new UEFA anti-doping education strategy, strict coronavirus protection measures for doping tests, and the UEFA EURO 2020 testing programme.
Protecting football and footballers: UEFA’s anti-doping vision
UEFA is acknowledged as one of the world's premier team sport organisations in the fight against doping, and continually strives to ensure that its education and testing programmes remain at the cutting edge of science and recognised good practice in all areas of prevention and detection.
Any football player taking part in a UEFA competition may be required to undergo a doping control at any time. Doping controls may include samples of blood and urine, as well as screening for substances such as the performance-enhancing drug erythropoietin (EPO) and human growth hormone.
No advance information is given as to when controls will take place – they can either be in-competition (after a match) or out-of-competition (at a team training session, at team hotels, or even at players’ homes).
Major plans and targets have been established to enhance UEFA’s overall anti-doping mission in 2022.
A key pillar of this mission is the body’s new anti-doping education strategy, which sees UEFA’s 55 member associations given financial backing to run education activities aimed at keeping footballers ‘clean’.
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.
UEFA's anti-doping education strategy
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 staff
• Education – delivering high-quality anti-doping education for players and player support staff
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. The aim of UEFA’s anti-doping education programme is to prevent intentional and unintentional doping.
Testing, monitoring and protecting
Testing levels remained high in 2020/21 despite the pandemic, owing to various medical precautions which were put in place to confront the situation.
Flexibility was much in evidence. UEFA continually monitored the situation to adapt its testing procedures, and initiated various COVID-related measures in order to protect not only the health of the players, but also that of the 53 doping control officers (DCOs) as they carried out their duties.
COVID protection measures
COVID protection measures included PCR testing in strict adherence to UEFA’s Return to Play Protocol.
Additional equipment was deployed at doping controls – including FFP2 masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes – while two separate waiting areas were provided for the two teams for in-competition tests after matches.
EURO 2020 testing programme
Thanks to the implementation of efficient coordination and effective collaboration with other anti-doping organisations, the testing programme for UEFA EURO 2020 was well- balanced and comprehensive.
As a result of the rescheduling of the tournament to summer 2021, the EURO testing programme began in January 2021 and lasted until the end of the tournament.
UEFA, FIFA and national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) collected a combined total of 1,616 urine and blood samples between 1 January 2021 and the completion of the EURO in mid-July.
All samples collected in the pre-tournament testing programme and during the EURO were negative.
EURO 2020 also saw the use of UEFA’s new Whereabouts Application for collecting whereabouts information from all 24 teams taking part in the tournament. The app has also been deployed in UEFA’s club competitions since the start of the 2020/21 season, and ensures that UEFA is able to schedule a test on any player in the indicated time slot provided by the whereabouts information..
Keeping testing levels high
A total of 1,417 samples were collected in-competition in UEFA competitions (not counting EURO 2020) in the 2020/21 season, as well as 374 out-of-competition samples.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic for DCOs in terms of travelling, there was only a 12% reduction in samples collected after matches in the 2020/21 season, in relation to the average collected over the previous four seasons.
The number of out-of-competition samples collected in 2020/21 was only 4% less than the average collected over the previous four seasons.
A total of 677 samples were analysed for EPO and erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESA) – medications which stimulate the bone marrow to make red blood cells – and 30 samples underwent isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) analysis designed to detect use of steroids.
Samples collected by UEFA and analysed in 2020/21 (excepting UEFA EURO 2020)
UEFA Champions League: 396 samples collected
UEFA Europa League: 552 samples collected
Other competitions (women’s, youth and futsal): 469 samples collected
UEFA Champions League: 261 samples collected
UEFA Europa League: 113 samples collected
EPO/ESA analysis: 677 samples analysed
IRMS analysis: 30 samples analysed