Football free for all goes viral

It’s interesting to see really knowledgeable and experienced, respected and intelligent, operators from the world of anti-doping now talk about what should happen during this time of global pandemic panic.

There is a certain irony in those who lament the poor quality of testing, now arguing that testing should stop during this period of turbulence. As one wag asked – what do they want to do, create a level playing field? So not just elite an favoured American, British, Australian and German athletes avoid testing, now everyone can max out their doping and return glowing.

“Experts” attached to clubs will now be licking their lips to boost players before they return from coronavirus enforced holidays.

Doping free for all

How do we view the thoughts of a person who has campaigned for and worked in anti-doping in one of the most successful sporting nations? A person steadfast in their view on more severe sanctions on Russia (with some validity).

Who was more forgiving on those like Serena Williams who have a history of dodging testers, refusing tests or threatening violence against anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

You’d have thought that given his knowledge of outrageous doping schemes that took place under his watch, as well as his being inside the tennis tent, he’d have welcomed a “privacy breach”, and began more asking questions as to how tennis players were given back dated excuses to chemically cheat?

However he’s standing by his view that testing now, when “Training has ceased”, is a danger.

Sadly, Mr. Ings is wrong on that front, training goes on and from other journalists I’ve been able to confirm that athletes are still working out alone or covertly with their coaches and teams.

Tennis players are still on court training (just check instagram stories to remove doubt), so testing NEEDS to continue.

If anyone is in any doubt, 10 years ago a very solid academic work called “American Professional Sports is a Doper’s Paradise” went through the reasons why the US is a total mess. US Anti-Doping (USADA) is led by a compromised and corrupted apparatchik whose goal is to increase his bonuses.

Travis “Paper” Tygart managed to convince some in US soccer to give him a chance, but players already laugh at USADA’s gimme gimme attitude. With light touch regulation for the sports USADA can actually test, suspending testing now just makes the nation a greater laughing stock.

As for UK Anti-doping saying they’ve reduced testing, it’s not due to nobody training, as we know that out at the now maligned Loughborough University, elite athletes are still hard at work.

And now, it comes to football elsewhere, especially where it appears to matter most – Europe!

Boom time for doping

We’re all used to the “Where have they found the extra energy from?” or “How can they keep going at such a pace for 90 minutes?” gasps from breathless commentators.

When commentating on games I don’t bother my backside with this. I don’t remark on energy, or that extra burst in the 87th minute, I’m too jaded.

Two years ago I asked a simple question about Belgium and England, their energy and performance. I commentated on all matches at the Luzhniki and a couple of others in the 2018 World Cup, heard neighbours exclaim – “Just where does he get that energy from?” Do you know how much it took from reaching over and slapping the clown across the head and asking him/her to check out the support staff list?

England had and have Forgetful Dr. Rob with them. He who came through scandals in British Athletics where he broke basic medical ethics and rules to ensure Mo Farah could do well in the London marathon.

He also pushed dangerous drug use onto other athletes and after a BBC expose, the English FA said they’d “quiz” him.

You’d wonder if it was general knowledge as the quiz consisted of three questions which he answered in two minutes. “Did you illegally administer drugs?” No. “Are the claims from the BBC documentary baseless?” Yes (plus an explanation of why). “Were you involved in any illegal administration of drugs while at UK Athletics?” No (brief explanation).

And that’s it. He’s still involved with an English football team that runs opponents into the ground.

So, how easy is it for footballers to dope? In the English Premier League, very! While UK anti-doping and the English FA like to blow their own horns over how much they’ve improved and increased testing, it is almost impossible to carry out the number of tests they do without any failures.

In 2017/18 the EPL apparently had 1,923 tests, all clean. Leaving aside falsely obtained permissions to cheat legally, from off the record interviews at least three footballers have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in this same time period.

And Forgetful Doctor Rob has worked with quite a few of these players. It’s extremely easy to game the system and with terrifyingly poor testing, with all eyes turned away, now you go for broke.

Football under pressure

I’ll call him Martin because he’s still playing in the professionally. When I was working in sports supplements he tested our products.

Produced in Ireland and rigorously tested, as well as being designed to be healthy and clean, they were perfect. Martin had come through an English Championship side Academy and played at Championship in England as well as loan spells lower down teh pyramid, in Scotland and in Europe.

He went to America for an MLS stint though didn’t sign and returned to Britain to continue his career.

In 2015/16 he was playing League One in England, made between 30 and 35 performances in league and cups. It was around this time we were introduced and in 2016 he tested our products.

He liked them and bought the same product (under a different name) from an Irish distributor. He had an idea to take distribution rights in England.

A team-mate and he offered to rep our brand in England, though due to our company’s change in direction, it fell through.

He continued using the product through to the end of his spell in League One in 2018. He was in Moscow for the World Cup and visited me in our studio for a brief interview.

All was laughter and fun until the very end of the interview – he threw away “I’m always glad I used the products you introduced me to, they were great. And anyway, it didn’t matter, I wasn’t tested once.” I asked, “Between 2016-2018?” “No, ever.” My producer/dj gasped, I leaned forward, trying to think of a follow up, he shrugged.

From Academy through to 2018 he’d not once been drug tested, despite playing in England’s second tier and other leagues. He was on a roll.

It might surprise you to know, not all players, even Premier, are tested at all. The testers and clubs aren’t that stupid.

I’ve asked those involved in anti-doping and they have confirmed the basis of this. Confirmed that at times whole teams suddenly change their training venue without notice. Let’s just use 1 club and then have a think. A club breaks anti-doping whereabouts three times in five months.

Their club doctor is investigated for prescribing a PED. One of their players has to have his coach explain why the player in question mght have used a PED (a player coming from a notoriously successful and league winning performance enhancing scheme).

A club whose coach worked with doping doctors and failed tests himself.

With all that in mind, can anybody tell me that it’s now time for testers to just give up and sit home? That nobody is going to use the unexpected off-season to prep for a hard run of games? That we won’t see improved performances and (in athletics) World records tumbling?

We will be without football for at least a couple of months, though now is not the time for a Mad Max free for all in the performance enhancing department.

Sometimes we need to protect people from themselves, especially athletes who know that extra half yard of pace in the 87th minute might mean a new contract in the coming season.

Author Details

Alan Moore

A Russia-based Sports Journalist and Consultant, worked with major sports clubs including:- Spartak Moscow, Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt. Boxed Internationally, played semi-pro football and worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13. First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, Host of Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow, #ChampTalks2020 and write the odd article. Director of the Centre of International Relations at the Russian State Social University in Moscow. And to make things more fun, he produced and hosted #ChampTalks2018 for UNESCO, Moscow's Tolerance Centre and Capital FM.

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