Do you TUE? Doping Armageddon for football

I’d given him the medicine myself, direct from the Team Doctor. He was feeling ragged, flu-ridden and he’d miss a week of training before his second match.

Coming, as we did, from -25 degree temperatures to a balmy +15 in Malta, I wasn’t feeling the best either. Two days later he came training, to loosen up if nothing else.

The head coach ran him into the ground for reasons that would become clear later and the Doctor wrote another prescription.

Only then did he look at his script pad, “Oh Madonna!” he exclaimed. Hurriedly he wrote a backdated script and did what he had to do with it. A simple slip of memory rescued by a back-dated/retroactive Doctor’s note.

This is the way with Theraputic Use Exemptions – or the infamous TUE –  in sports.

 

One of the best things that happened for the enemies of WADA, the IOC and the other assorted gangs of cronies was Tuesday’s long-awaited info dump. Immediately the usual attention seekers with agendas like Hajo Sappelt jumped in, labeling the TUE information “nothing special” and that the hackers are “Russian government linked groups”.

This from a man who used multiple identities to get information or make subtle approaches. And he was right to do so, but now those who are living off making a major scoop are determined to urinate down the backs of others for fear of losing their position.

Hackers bad, whistleblowers good (when it suits) and journos always above reproach – even when regurgitating the work of others.

The Fancy Bears, whoever they are, have just started. They are doing a favour for the snakes who have been lying in wait, coiling for a moment to take down the bigwigs. So they themselves can get on the gravy train.

When a former Australian tennis and doping official states that the aim of the hack was to try show that WADA is complicit in athletes doping, yet also to deflect from Russia’s guilt, he was riding on the same horse as many of his English speaking, Russophobic buddies.

The TUE hack, as it is developing, is showing that you can legally dope and that this is something we need to discuss.

Some time ago I wrote about the misuse of painkillers in sports and football. I also brought into the open the frighteningly high numbers of healthy young footballers who just fall down dead of heart attacks.

Since this article was published a further six footballers have dropped dead of heart attacks/failures while playing or training.  Five men and one woman, all healthy and in their prime – dead. Why? We don’t care.

 

We don’t care that 45 footballers collapsing and dying from heart failures/attacks since 2009 is unusual.  We shed a tear and move on. The media give a bye line and forget them. Sure isn’t the Champions League on this week?

Why worry about a 26-year-old with a heart twice the size of a normal human caused by Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) use? He’d a TUE and the painkillers were getting him on the pitch. Now where is the remote control?

Despite PR pieces to the contrary (on how back in the day cortisone was bad but now it’s all ok), doping is still prevalent in football. In sport painkillers are the main quasi-legal PED of choice, as shown by the Fancybears.

Four years ago FIFA warned about the “abuse of painkillers”, yet here we have our colleagues in the 4th Estate ignoring doping when it is one of our own.

So why was Harry Arter’s legalised (we presume) doping ignored just to sell a story about an Irish International missing out on a big tournament? Because we’re immune to it. We assume it’s normal for athletes to take addictive and damaging substances to inflict further damage on their bodies for our entertainment. We don’t care about them once they’re of no use to us.

Soccer, and sport, is dying a slow death. Yet the slower it dies the more excited and aroused we become. A 150kg Prop forward smashing into and running over a 130kg Centre is great, we love it.

Last week, as the leaks came from FancyBears, the click bait media went into orgasmic overdrive with a video, now GIF’ed, of a nine-year -ld inflicting physical punishment on other kids. “Beastly”, “smashes”, “steamrolls”, “destroys” and worse all appear as descriptions in print and online for this child. How sick are we?

The reason we have an increasing epidemic of doping from the elite to the gym rat and beyond, is because of this very same gobshiteism. I watched 15 seconds of this video and wondered where is tackle training before feeling sorry for the youngster.

Because there is a fair chance he will end up being doped to an early death like another of his type – Jonah Lomu.

Last week I contacted friends working as physical trainers with six football clubs in four different countries – Ireland, England, Russia and Germany.  I asked three questions.

  1. Do non-asthmatic players use inhalers?  If so, what percentage?
  2. How many players have ongoing TUE’s?
  3. Have you ever known/seen a backdated TUE or note?

For the first question, all answered Yes. Only one, in Russia, gave an exact figure: 20-30% rate. In line with the odd sports anomaly of 24% (Three times higher than the general public norm of 7-8%). And below that of cross country skiing: 50%.

For question two, in their first teams they had players with ongoing TUE’s but could not divulge how many, except for the German trainer who stated a single case. However, a fitness trainer working with a former Champions League winning club in England said that players are issued with medicines when, and if, needed by the Club Doctors.

Some will use an inhaler if they feel they feel low; and a Meldonium-type supplement (used in post-chemotherapy recovery) is given to some players when their immune systems are low. They received a note to cover this, he said.

Finally, the biggie. Backdated TUE/notes’s – all have heard of it happening. Only one, in Ireland, said it was issued after a genuine mistake. The Club Doctor gave a painkiller at half-time and a week passed before it was noted. He said it was noted because the player was called in for a doping test.

There was no inference of collusion between testers and Doctor, just an admin mistake.

 

Just remember, a healthy semi-professional athlete was injected with a painkiller at half-time so that he could play another 45 minutes. Is this normal? Should we accept it as normal? Does anyone really care?

With ever increasing pressure for results, from terraces to the pitch to the board room, nobody escapes the 24/7 “gimme it now” insanity.  It was bad before the onset of Sky, worse since the Internet took over our lives, and the monster is still only an infant.

As my trainer friend in Germany said:

We have KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) in our job. If a player is not back fit in time, we lose bonuses, and sometimes salary percent or raises. I will do everything I can to get a player back playing, legally, yet sometimes I wonder if it is for him I am doing it. Maybe it’s better he rests, or has an operation, or retires.  And often the player goes to do his own thing. I do worry. But it’s not my job to make such decisions.

KPI’s are common in business and an integral part of Emergency Department work in NHS and Irish hospitals. Get them in, get them out. It doesn’t matter if they’re not ready or they need some time.

Ultimately it is a results based industry and Football is no different. And for those who have a position of responsibility to care for players? They just do what they have to. It’s not their job to care.

If nothing else the FancyBears hack has illustrated the hypocrisy in sport and society where “our guys are good and yours are bad”. Some athletes are innocent until proven guilty while the reverse is in force for others.

Yet amid all the noise, nobody is asking “Why?” Why athletes are putting their physical and mental well being on the line?  The reason is too painful to accept.  They dope because we want them to.

Author Details

Alan Moore
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 I worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13. First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, now hosting Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow and writing the odd article.

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