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U19s warned of career dangers

Young players at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final round in Greece have been warned of the dangers of doping and match-fixing at UEFA education sessions.

Players from the Netherlands at an Under-19 education session
Players from the Netherlands at an Under-19 education session ©Sportsfile

The message being delivered to the players at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship taking place in Greece is to be aware of some potential pitfalls to their careers.

UEFA's ongoing anti-doping and match-fixing education and awareness drive saw players and staff of all eight nations participating in Greece attend talks on two important aspects of the game. The emphasis was on informing and reminding the players of just how careful they need to be off and away from the field, as much as on it.

"This is to stop you making silly mistakes and ruining your career," explained Richard Grisdale from UEFA's medical and anti-doping unit, adding how statutory bans for breaking anti-doping rules have risen since January 2015 from two years to four for intentional doping. "That is definitely going to end your career," he added.

Bans apply whether any proven case of doping is intentional or by accident, which is why the players need to be careful at all times – even when socialising with their friends or taking medication if they feel slightly under the weather. "You're a footballer, you play for your national team, so this World Anti-Doping Association's banned substance list applies to you," said Grisdale. "Anything that goes into your body, you are responsible for. Take this responsibility."

The players discovered how even some widely-available over-the-counter medicines or supplements can contain banned substances, and the ingredients on what may seem like identical products can even vary from country to country. In every case, common sense and vigilance suffice to avoid making a mistake.

"If you are not sure, ask your team doctor," Grisdale said. "99.9% of footballers never have any problems. Be sensible and you will be okay."

That echoed the message given to the players by UEFA's ethics and disciplinary inspector Jean-Samuel Leuba, who detailed a three Rs principle to explain to the players how they can avoid jeopardising their own integrity, and that of the game.

"Recognise, reject and report," he said. "Recognise what is happening, reject – there is no discussion, just say 'no' – and report. Tell somebody. That is extremely important; you are obliged to talk. 

"The rules foresee that if somebody is contacted and does not report it, they are also involved, even if you refused. Even if you know somebody else who has been approached, you must report this too. Do not get involved in organised crime. It will scar your image without any doubt, even if you did not actually bet yourself."

UEFA's efforts to combat the threat of match-fixing were detailed in a video presentation which showed how games are monitored for irregular betting activity. It is in the interests of everybody within the game to ensure football "remains pure", and that is the point being emphasised.

"A game should be played right up to the final minute with sporting uncertainty," added Leuba. "If we want football to remain pure, the 22 players and the referee on the field are not corrupt.

"The aim is not to scare you, but to warn you and sensitise you before anything happens, so you don't say 'I didn't know'."

That answer will not be accepted from any of the players appearing at the European Under-19 Championship in Greece after an extensive educational programme made them aware of the risks they must avoid.

To supplement the talks, all the players were encouraged to take part in a quiz on anti-doping. A draw was made involving all those players who got every answer right with the winner - Ukraine's Artem Besedin - receiving an iPad.