The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drug clouds loom over soccer

London: Five months ago a survey carried out by the BBC regarding drugs in soccer revealed an alarming statistic.

It claimed that as many as 160 professional English footballers were drug cheats taking performance-enhancing agents.

Not recreational drugs like cannabis or cocaine but performance-enhancing ones such as steroids or speed. Or even, following this week’s revelations, THG, the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone that is threatening to blow apart the sporting world.

More than one in 20 of the 700-plus players interviewed told the BBC they knew of colleagues using performance-enhancing drugs.

The survey was carried out with the co-operation of the Professional Footballers’ Association, by Ivan Waddington from Leicester University.

“(The figures) are the equivalent of four full squads who know of other players who are using performance-enhancing drugs,” he said.

“It was young players aged between 19 and 24 who were most likely to report that they knew players who used performance-enhancing drugs — that may suggest that the increase is a very recent phenomenon.”

But worse was to follow.

The survey also revealed that nearly one player in 20 admitted being given regular injections and having “absolutely no idea” what substance they were being administered.

On Thursday Dick Pound, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), wrote to Sepp Blatter after a number of reports quoted Fifa’s president saying he does not agree with WADA’s sanctions for doping offences.

Soccer, of course, is an Olympic sport and Jacques Rogge, the IOC President, has made it clear that every sport must accept and implement WADA’s anti-doping charter in order to remain in the Games.

Is soccer immune from drug abuse' Is a soccer player different from any other professional sportsman with increasingly tough demands to perform at the highest level more and more often' Many have their doubts.

French World Cup winner Emmanuel Petit claimed in 1999 that top players had started taking drugs to maintain their fitness with the faster pace of the game.

The following year Dutch international Marc Overmars said: “Doping and stimulants in football are frightening me. This season more and more I have had the feeling that the lad I’ve passed is back in front of me. How on earth has he overtaken me' I’m one of the fastest players around.”

Last week Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said English and European authorities needed to increase the number of drug tests on players if they are to prove the game is clean. “I think deeply that the football authorities have a responsibility to make sure the game is clean and at the moment they are not taking it, not in England or in Europe,” he said.

It is also true that no footballer in England has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug such as nandrolone.

But this week Inter Milan striker Mohamed Kallon was suspended after his ‘A’ test proved positive for nandrolone following a routine check last month.

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