Wada reveals lack of blood testing in football doping controls

Blood testing remains the most effective way to catch potential drug cheats but many governing bodies, including in Spain, Netherlands and Brazil failed to carry one out in 2013
By Peter Staunton

Less than one per cent of all doping controls in football in 2013 came in the form of out-of-competition blood tests, the 2013 World Anti-Doping Authority (Wada) testing figures have revealed. Many anti-doping authorities and national associations failed to conduct a single blood test in 2013 - including Brazil, Spain and Netherlands.

There were 28,002 doping tests carried out in football in 2013, the vast majority of which, 21,638 (77%), were urine tests conducted in-competition. Of those, 287 (1.32%) urine tests were classified as either Atypical Findings (ATFs) or Adverse Analytical Findings (AAFs), which were subjected to a results management process. It is not disclosed whether or not those follow-ups led to sanctions. Wada hopes that by 2016 all Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) will be published.

Out-of-competition urine testing identified a bigger percentage of suspect samples, with 123 (2.15%) of 5,697 requiring the results management process. Out-of-competition testing is considered to be more effective because in-competition testing means that athletes have prior notice as to the testing period and can effectively suspend a doping programme to guarantee a negative test.

Blood testing is the most effective way to detect certain performance enhancing drugs such as Human Growth Hormone (hGH) and the blood booster EPO. A tiny fraction of football's anti-doping controls carried out in 2013 involved blood tests. Only 667 (2.38%) of all football's dope tests in 2013 involved blood testing. In all, there were 173 (0.61%) out-of-competition blood tests conducted. No blood test revealed an ATF or AAF.

Doping controls in football are not carried out by Wada itself but are instead conducted by national anti-doping authorities, international governing bodies - such as Fifa and Uefa - and national associations.

When contacted by Goal, the Netherlands Doping Authority cited cost as the chief reason behind the dearth of blood testing in football there. "Each anti-doping organisation has to work within a certain budget and has financial limitations," said Herman Ram, the director of Dopingautoriteit. "We, therefore, have to make choices over how to use our resources.

"We use a number of criteria to decide how many resources we dedicate to a certain sport. One of those criteria is the amount of tests that leads to a positive test, which is a low percentage in football."

The Spanish FA (RFEF) declined to comment.

The blood testing numbers for 2014 should bring an increase with the widespread advent of the Athlete Biological Passport, which measures blood values over time and which Fifa implemented for all players at the recent World Cup in Brazil.

The Athlete Biological Passport, according to Wada, "monitors selected biological parameters over time that reveal the effects of doping rather than attempting to detect the substance itself".