Premier League Poll: Quiet, are we doping?

An investigation by journalist Edmund Willison for Mail On Sunday, published on Sunday, found at least 15 Premier League footballers tested positive by UKAD, Britain’s anti-doping agency, between 2015 and 2020. Their names? We ignore them. But what we do know is that none of them have been the target of the slightest sanction so far. Not the slightest fine, not the slightest ban hit her. As usual with doping, football looked the other way.

With the exception of one of the fifteen affected players (who had used cocaine), the prohibited substances they used had nothing to do with the “recreational drugs‘ which had resulted in suspensions for some Premier League footballers in the past

. We talked about drugs designed to improve performance on the training or playing field: amphetamines, triamcinolone, the stimulant Ritalin, the testosterone booster HCG, indapamide (a diuretic sometimes used as a masking agent) and prednisolone (another steroid) . A nice pharmacy.

Despite pressure from the Mail on Sunday reporter, UKAD refused to elaborate on why one of the players who used the substances had been disciplined, except to say that disclosing further details could jeopardize the ongoing investigation. It’s also possible, even likely, that some of these footballers benefited from therapy exemptions, a ploy many cyclists used to justify their use of anti-inflammatory drugs or stimulants used to treat an allergy, a respiratory condition such as asthma.

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2,000 samples taken in the Premier League

Football prides itself on being among the sports that do the most to uncover cheaters in England. In 2019 (the last year for which we have reliable statistics, after the pandemic then made the testers’ job more difficult and almost impossible) UKAD had analyzed almost 2,000 samples from PL players, which was a significant improvement on the previous year Decade in which most players could go an entire season without visiting a tester.

Today it is only “approximately” 25% who have been forgotten by anti-doping. It is also true that in the UK, football is more rigorous in the fight against doping than, for example, basketball or ice hockey, two professional sports for which UKAD carried out an identical number of tests three years ago: zero. But that’s the kind of comparison no one can be proud of.

A corner in the Premier League

Photo credit: Getty Images

2,000 annual tests, most of which are urine tests and therefore not necessarily the most effective at detecting increasingly sophisticated doping products, may not be enough to dispel the doubts about the real extent of doping in English football, especially when perpetrators remain anonymous – and seem to be to avoid banishment. Professor Ivan Waddington of the University of Chester is one of the few researchers to have carried out studies on the prevalence of doping in English professional football in collaboration with the PFA, the players’ union. Their conclusions are much less encouraging than the limited number of positive cases would suggest. A quarter of the footballers who answered his questions on condition of anonymity confirmed that they know at least one other professional who they knew was using banned substances.

Why does football cover its face?Why then does football choose to hide its face and remain silent when it comes to doping? One reason, inherited from a time when players weren’t asked to repeat high-intensity sprints while running seven miles per game, is that “There is no pill that gives talent

However, this truism was already false in 1954, when syringes were discovered in the dressing room of West Germany players who had just defeated Hungary in the final of the 1954 World Cup, which would have been used to inject syringes, not “vitamins”. “, as the golden legend of the ‘Miracle of Bern’ puts it, but amphetamines. We know the doubts that surround the great Ajax of Johan Cruyff and some other clubs that were also European champions. We’re halfway talking about a Ballon d’Or , who would have loved blood transfusions.And in the end we choose to ignore the elephant that takes up almost all the space in the room.

One also has to wonder if football, and not just English football, is tough enough when it comes to punishing breaches of its anti-doping code. Sometimes he hits hard, as in the case of Rio Ferdinand, which was banned for eight months in 2003 for failing to provide a sample when testers visited.

It’s more common that he’s content with a slap on the wrist, but not a ruler, with a gloved hand. For example, how do you explain or justify the fact that Manchester City failed three times in 2016 – three times in twelve months! – failed to provide correct whereabouts information to testers only to be fined £35,000 when the same failure, if attributed to an individual athlete, would have been worth a lifetime ban?

Manchester City Jersey with Official Premier League Ball 2019/2020

Photo credit: Getty Images

Because it explains why UKAD still doesn’t test enough despite their best efforts – what’s 2000 tests when they’re spread across 800 players over a year? Testing is expensive and the agency lacks the resources to carry out its screening and analysis work as rigorously as it would like.

That is understandable. Less understandable is the silence English football is walled in on doping; It’s true that it doesn’t happen often and that, apart from a few outsiders, the English media stand out more for their complacency than curiosity about the world’s most popular championship; and it is also true that this complacency is even more pronounced in many countries. Again, that’s not the kind of comparison everyone can be proud of.

They include Mark Bosnich, the former Aston Villa and Manchester United goalkeeper who was suspended for nine months and whose contract was terminated by Chelsea after testing positive for cocaine.

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