Fifa: No systematic doping in football

Following on from the results of the 2013 Wada Testing Figures, the world football body disclosed to Goal that it believes most positive doping tests are due to social drugs
Fifa claims there is no systematic doping culture in football and that most positive tests are individual cases usually involving recreational drugs.

The recent 2013 World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) testing figures revealed there were 28,002 doping controls carried out in 2013 with 140 Adverse Analytical Findings (AAF) and 270 Atypical Findings (ATF) which required a results management process.

"We are confident that there is no systematic doping in football and no systematic doping culture in football," a Fifa spokesperson told Goal. "There are approximately 30,000 sampling procedures in football every year, more than any other sport.

"There are individual cases of doping, as shown by the results published by Wada, but most positive cases are for so-called social drugs like marijuana and cocaine and a few for anabolic steroids, but these are individual cases."

However, writing in April's British Journal of Sports Medicine, Fifa chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak admitted there is an "urgent need" to change detection strategies in football. The number of doping tests in football between 2005 and 2012 increased roughly by 50 per cent but the number of Adverse Analytical Findings (AAF) remain much the same. Fifa also said that federations and even entire nations could fear total transparency due to potential exposure to a doping culture and harming reputation.

There has not yet been one confirmed case of recombinant EPO doping in football, something Fifa admitted may be due to "imperfect testing" procedures. About eight per cent of doping controls in 2013 were for EPO. Fifa introduced blood and urine procedures for EPO detection at the 2002 World Cup but also stated to Goal that "there was no suspicion that blood doping would play a significant role in football."  

Fifa also disclosed in the BJSM that the longer the out-of-competition period the greater the likelihood of eluding doping controls and the temptation on the part of teams and individuals to dope. Out-of-competition blood tests accounted for only 0.61% of all doping procedures carried out in football in 2013.

Fifa now believes the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) programme will provide more intelligent testing and also lead to a long-term reduction in costs over time. The current cost of organising, conducting, analysing and managing a single doping control is around £590. The overall costs of doping controls in football is about £17.6m per-annum.

Using those numbers it can be estimated that to catch a single athlete using anabolic steroids costs around £1.7m. The ABP monitors an athlete's blood profile over time and can detect changes which indicate the presence of prohibited substances. The next generation ABP will also be able to test better for the presence of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as well as blood transfusions to increase a red blood cell count.

"Establishing the biological profile requires several samples of blood and urine so that laboratory experts and doctors can make comparisons," Fifa said. "In collaboration with the confederations and in future with the national leagues, Fifa is currently establishing a database in order to monitor footballers during their professional career. Laboratory findings from different in and out of competitions controls are stored in a central data base for comparison.

"Fifa began this process by testing players during the Fifa Club World Cup 2011, 2012 and 2013, and for the 2013 Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2014 Fifa World Cup all players were tested unannounced prior to the competition by giving blood and urine samples. The data base is also enhanced by the sampling procedures obtained from Uefa during the Champions League 2013, 2014 and the Euro 2012.

"The values can be compared to the values obtained during routine testing following each match. The data base already includes 1,324 players from 55 nationalities and 370 different clubs. Almost all top players are included and many of them have been tested two, three, four or five times, which gives us more samples to compare and draw conclusions from."

The new ABP procedures will be in conjunction with the 2015 Wada code which relies more on evidence-based, targeted, sport-specific and situation-specific testing. The 2015 Wada code will also permit storage of samples for up to 10 years for the purpose of re-analysis.