Premier League players union opposes tougher drugs controls

Plans to tighten doping controls in English football were outlined on Tuesday but immediately ran into opposition from the body that represents the interests of players. Skip related content

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UK Sport, which oversees anti-doping in the United Kingdom, wants to introduce a system under which a selected group of 30 players will be liable for testing five times a year, on any day and at any location, including their homes and holiday accomodation.

Andy Parkinson, UK Sport’s head of operations for a drug-free sport, said the aim was to protect the image of the game by bringing football’s controls into line with the more stringent regimes in place in athletics and cycling.

“The last thing we want is for football to be in that position where it doesn’t focus enough – doesn’t put controls in place – and suddenly finds itself a sport with a fantastic profile in a crisis,” Parkinson said.

But Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), said he felt the provisions envisaged by UK Sport were excessive.

“We feel that to invade the privacy of a player’s home would be a step too far,” Taylor said.

“If we complain about anything to do with drug-testing then people think we might have something to hide, but football’s record is extremely good and there has been a virtual absence of any performance-enhancing drugs, and that goes back decades.

“We do appreciate that football is a major spectator sport and we wish to co-operate, but football should not be treated in the same way as individual sports that do have a problem with drugs, such as athletics, cycling and weightlifting.”

The English Football Association said that discussions with UK Sport on how the new testing regime would operate in practice had not been concluded.

At present, doping controls in English, European club and international football are largely based on players being selected randomly to provide urine samples after matches, although there is also some random testing at training grounds.

Under the new system, players on the list could be asked to undergo additional tests during their holidays or when they are out of action due to injury.

“Players have licence to take anything they want in the summer as they disappear off our radar,” Parkinson added. “Under this, they could be in Barbados and we can still test them.”

The existing drug control regime in football has produced little evidence of doping being commonplace in the sport although positive tests for recreational drugs are more common.

Chelsea sacked Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich after he tested positive for cocaine in 2002 while Romanian striker Adrian Mutu was dismissed in 2004 after a test initiated by the club revealed that he had also been using the drug.

England defender Rio Ferdinand was banned for eight months and missed Euro 2004 after skipping a doping test at Manchester United’s training ground in 2003.

Ferdinand insisted that he had simply “forgotten” to undergo the test but he would be automatically banned for two years under current rules and his past means he could be one of players targetted for the new testing regime.

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