FIFA are planning to freeze blood and urine samples of star players at this summer’s World Cup finals, in a move designed to bolster the image of a sport eager to avoid the curse of drug taking.
Diego Maradona’s exclusion from the 1994 World Cup after his failed drug test is the highest-profile such incident at FIFA’s marquee event, with the game’s governing body hoping that remains the case as they prepare for this summer’s football festival in Brazil.
Chief medical officer professor Jiri Dvorak outlined the plans on a FIFA podcast, as he vowed to roll out a more sophisticated drug-testing programme for the world game that will kick into gear in Brazil this summer.
“The fight against doping has intensified over the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “The increase of simple sampling procedures both in and out of competition controls does not stop some athletes to continue with doping strategies.
“It has been mentioned that the athletes, or their supporting personnel, are a step ahead of the science. So we discussed whether this is true and whether the current strategy is the right one.
“This strategy was developed in the late 1960s, meanwhile the world of sport has changed. There is strong evidence that if you re-analyse the samples from past years that new methods would find them, this is an extremely deterrent method.
“Most of the international federations decided to freeze the samples for a number of years. FIFA will do that from the 2014 World Cup. We will freeze them and keep them as long as we want and we can always revisit the samples.”
Dvorak went on to suggest the plans will provide additional warning to players tempted to use performance-enhancing drugs at Brazil 2014, with the threat of any cheating liable to be uncovered in years to come when fresh testing methods are devised.
FIFA’s plans to compare the drug test samples of players from different tournaments is a new development, with the idea of identifying suspicious patterns in blood and urine following examples set by other sports in recent years.
“We have decided that we will examine all participating players in the preparation period between now and the World Cup at least once and then we will perform routine procedures during the World Cup and examine blood and urine and we will compare,” added Dvorak.
“We will compare this data with already existing sample analysis from Champions League, from the Confederations Cup 2013 from the Club World Cup from 2011, 2012 and 2013. So for the top players, we will have a number of sampling procedures.
“We can compare different samples from the same athletes being taken over periods of the athlete’s career in and out of competition, during different times of the year, pre-competition, during high profile competition and we compare the different parameters in urine for the different steroids and hormones and also in blood which could indicate artificial manipulation of the body by doping substances or methods.
“If this suspicion is given by the data we can perform much more targeted testing.”
Football’s reputation has not been tarnished by failed drug tests in the way cycling, tennis and a variety of other sports have been in recent years, and this move signals FIFA is clearly eager to maintain their sport’s relatively clean image.