Antidoping in football: what you need to know as a player

FuPa Luxembourg, in cooperation with the Luxembourg anti-doping agency ALAD, has created a FAQ for footballers

1.Which athletes can be tested?

All athletes with a federation racing license can be tested. Prerequisite is that this association be a member of COSL.

2. How is it decided or who decides when, where and who is controlled?

ALAD has a set budget from which it decides how controls are allocated. Management advises on controls. The target group for controls are above all athletes who are members of the COSL elite cadres or who belong to the army as sports soldiers.

Furthermore, ALAD is obliged by international associations to conduct doping tests in the framework of international competitions taking place in Luxembourg. An example is the “Tour de Luxembourg” cycle race.

In addition to these obligations, there are still a number of controls that ALAD can distribute to different sports over the course of a year. The ALAD Executive Committee decides on the main lines. Based on the competitions it is then decided where it is interesting to carry out checks.

3. Are doping controls announced or not?

There are alerted and unannounced checks. When organizing a “Tour de Luxembourg”, for example, it should not be a secret that ALAD makes representations there for audits.

In football, for example, ALAD can come into play without warning. The Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency is also not advertised in the case of out-of-competition controls, in the case of so-called “contrôles inopinés” (random control).

4. Are there differences depending on the sport? With test methods, with banned substances?

Testing methods are always the same, they are harmonized. The urine test on a footballer is the same as that of a cyclist or other athlete. Blood tests are also the same everywhere. In most sports, banned substances are also the same.

Billiards, shooting, archery, etc. Beta blockers are also banned. Such have a calming effect and athletes would have a calmer hand taking such medications. In football the same checks are made as, for example, in basketball or other team sports.

The lists of banned substances are harmonized with the exception of these few sports mentioned.

5. Are there any positive tests from Luxembourg football in the past and if so, what were the consequences / penalties?

In 2017 there was a case where asthma spray was used. There are many such sprays that are allowed. However, in this specific case, the drug contained a banned substance. The decision was a reprimand, the use of asthma spray did not result in a ban and no deliberate intentional misconduct was held by the court.

In this context, it is important to explain that Luxembourg has an independent jurisdiction over doping charges for all sports, which does not happen in every country. This independent, dual-level court was established by COSL – similar to CLAS – but operates entirely independently, but is legally regulated by the Statutes of the Olympic Committee.

6. What care should a footballer take in case of illness or injury if treated with medication as part of this?

ALAD advises all athletes to download the list of banned substances from the agency or federation website and have it with them if they need to visit a doctor. You should also tell doctors that you are a licensed athlete. There are many medications that are safe to take, but it is important that this list be helpful because of the ones that athletes are not allowed to take. In this case, the doctor treating you may prescribe medicines that are not on the list.

If there is no alternative to the prescription of prohibited substances for athletes, then there is the possibility to apply for an extraordinary permit, the so-called “autorisation d’usage à des fins thérapeutiques”. This can also be found on the website of the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency and must be completed by the athlete and the treating physician. Drugs that are not actually allowed can only be taken with such a special permit.

This can happen, for example, in the case of chronic inflammation of the intestines, for which you need to take cortisone. In examples like this, this special permit must be completed and applied. If the reasoning given there is sound and understandable, if it is clear that the athlete is addicted to such medication, perhaps even to be able to do his sport at all, then usually this request for exemption will be accepted . The evaluation is done by a commission, which gives the green light or not, depending on the situation.

Most allergy medications, which are currently in high demand during pollen season, are not on the list and are permitted accordingly. Antihistamines are not banned. In the event of an acute allergic emergency, on the other hand, you may be administered drugs that are on the doping list.

7. Where is the border between competitive and recreational sports, if there is such a border at all?

This is based on the license or type of license.As already mentioned, any licensed football player can be tested. If it were not so, ALAD would not know where to start and where to end, which would be far beyond what the agency could do. However, in some countries there is indeed a discussion about the control of amateur athletes as this falls under the realm of general health, but in Luxembourg it is not so.

8. In case of a positive test, is an athlete entitled to a B sample and if so, how should he act on it?

In case of a positive test, the prescribed procedures begin. First, the athlete is informed of the findings. A check is then performed to determine if there may be a specific permit that has been mentioned before. If one is not available, he is given the option of a B sample. Those affected may be present when they are opened. If the second sample confirms the first, ALAD writes to the competent court.

The person who tested positive is then summoned before that court. There she can explain herself and, as before any other court, she has the right to use the help of a lawyer. ALAD has a role in court comparable to that of a prosecutor in a criminal court.

All COSL-related sports federations have given ALAD the opportunity for athletes suspected of doping to be tried by this independent court. In the past, this was done through the courts of the association responsible for athletes, but as these were not necessarily as neutral as the independent anti-doping court, this procedure was repealed. Such courts also did not necessarily have the experience required for doping cases.

In case of a positive test, ALAD always sees the athlete to explain how to proceed and to inform him / her about his / her rights and obligations. Such a discovery usually brings with it a certain amount of excitement. The athlete also has the right to refer to ALAD and the agency also insists that the finding not be published and that the athlete knows where he is and how to behave. The public will be informed only after the whole procedure has been completed.

9. What else should footballers be careful about?

What applies to all athletes also applies to footballers. In addition to the list of medicines you should take with you to your doctor, you are also asked to look at what you have in your medicine cabinet. Athletes need to be especially careful in families where roommates are taking medication. A well-known example is the blood pressure medicine Effortil, which is on the doping list. This can certainly be found in some families. You will not find EPOs in a home closet.

A new regulation for taking cortisone is also in force from this year. Any kind of cortisone injection during a competition is prohibited. If a footballer receives an intra-articular injection in the knee a few days before a game, he or she may test positive for a doping test during a game.

The Agence luxembourgeoise anti-dopage website has a list of athletes available on how to behave if given an injection or oral medication. It shows how long it takes for certain substances to break down completely in the body.

It is very important that athletes taking or taking cortisone injections immediately have the reflex to control how much elimination time is for their specific medication. As written, this rule is still new, but ALAD is aware that such treatments are quite common.

Cannabis is also banned in sports competitions. It is similar to its consumption: if you consumed cannabis a few days before a game, it is possible that this intake could still be detected on the day of the game in a test. In fact, it should be understood that athletes do not use cannabis, but the rule should also be noted.

One last important issue is that of dietary supplements. This worries the agency. One has to ask oneself: as an athlete, do I really need such resources? However, this area is less concerned with doping or anti-doping. Before using such tools, an athlete should check whether everything is so perfect in training, in nutrition, in the stages of recovery and sleep, that further growth can be achieved only with such tools.

Dietary supplements are not as well regulated as medications. It may happen that the manufacturers do not have to or should not indicate all the substances contained in the packaging. Sometimes substances banned in such vehicles are even listed on the packaging and they are still sold. And if you do not pay attention as an athlete, you can easily get into trouble. Preparations may be contaminated without the knowledge of the manufacturer.

So here too you have to be careful. If you are now convinced that you need to take nutritional supplements, then ALAD refers to the laboratory of the University of Sports in Cologne. This stores the so-called “Cologne List”, which lists regularly tested products. In the Netherlands, the local anti-doping agency maintains a similar list. In the worst case, such preparations can become a real trap and ALAD advises caution when using them.

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