LONDON (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency urged soccer leaders on Tuesday to conduct more blood doping tests and intelligence operations to unmask cheating players.
Ahead of a meeting with FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Thursday, WADA leaders expressed concerns that not enough is being done to discover if players are using blood-boosting EPO.
“Many years can go by from what we are told where footballers are not asked for one sample,” WADA President John Fahey told The Associated Press in London. “We are constantly told that baseball doesn’t have an effective program, but now they test every major baseball player four times every year. Football may not test a player once in any given year.”
WADA Director General David Howman said “team sports players can go their entire career without being tested.”
Spain’s anti-doping agency last week began examining claims by a former president of Spanish team Real Sociedad that its players used performance-enhancing substances. One of the world’s leading coaches, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, also claimed that doping tests must be more extensive.
It is the potential use of EPO in football sparking much concern, with Fahey describing it as “the drug of choice.”
“If you are taking urine samples and not asking the laboratory to test for EPO then you are not serious about catching cheats whatever the sport might be,” Fahey said.
FIFA said of the 662 tests conducted at competitions last year under its auspices, 95 were for EPO.
Doping tests will only be conducted at 114 of the 820 qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, with only four players providing a sample. Only one of them will be tested for EPO, FIFA said.
“There is a clear indication that in football they are not testing for EPO from urine,” Fahey said. “It’s a tragedy.”
WADA is unhappy that use of biological passports, which monitor the effects of doping, is so limited in soccer, with FIFA only starting to use them for players at its competitions in the last two years. Players going to Brazil for the Confederations Cup in June and World Cup the following year are set to have such profiles.
Players selected for anti-doping controls have their results measured against out-of-competition tests taken up to one month earlier.
“We now know that the athlete’s biological passport is a very effective tool. Why isn’t football using it (more)? They can,” Fahey said. “It would make it more effective, but I also recognize that all of this costs money.”
Tennis players, including U.S. Open champion Andy Murray, have been calling for more blood tests, combined with biological passports.
“They want to make the statement, ‘I compete without doping and I want the world to know that my sport is without doping,’” Fahey said. “I hope that tennis is listening to these responsible players.”
Some of Murray’s concerns stem from the Operation Puerto case in Spain where a doctor is on trial in a case that uncovered blood bags used for illegal transfusions.
Eufemiano Fuentes has admitted having clients from cycling, tennis, football and boxing but has not revealed their identities.
“I hope this case ultimately decides in favor of releasing those bags so this monumental cloud that again is hanging over hundreds of athletes in Spain can at last be lifted,” Fahey said.
The trial is taking place with cycling reeling from the exposure of Lance Armstrong’s widespread doping, which resulted in the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles.
Fahey said he believes Armstrong will never speak under oath to doping investigators, despite being crucial to getting his life ban from sport reduced.
The extent of Armstrong’s doping was established during an investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and Fahey urged other sports to invest in using intelligence to unmask dopers.
“We need to be ever alert to the increasingly sophisticated science available to athletes today and to the growing influence of the underworld,” he said.
A commission in Australia last week indicated widespread use of performance-enhancing substances in professional sports and links between users and organized crime. In response, Australian athletes were told Tuesday that to be eligible for next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi they will have to declare any history of doping in a legal document, and risk five years in prison for any false statements.
But Fahey said he fears that athletes could be reticent to confess if it spells the end of their sporting careers and foster a “code of silence.”
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris
Official Wire and AP
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