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By ESPN Staff

PFA unhappy with new drugs testing plans

The Professional Footballers' Association are opposing new drug-testing rules that could see the top players tested in their own homes.

Under the new code of the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), a pool of 30 elite players may be forced to undergo up to five tests a year on top of those carried out after matches.

The move is to bring sports such as football into line with Olympic athletes, who must provide details of their location for an hour each day, including holidays.

But PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said the players' union opposed some of the new regulations.

Taylor said: "We feel that to invade the privacy of a player's home would be a step too far.

"If we complain about anything to do with drug-testing people think we might have something to hide, but football's record is extremely good and there has been a virtual absence of any performance-enhancing drugs over decades.

"We do appreciate that football is a major spectator sport and we wish to co-operate, but football should not be treated in the same way as individual sports that do have a problem with drugs, such as athletics, cycling and weightlifting.

"For most of the year, the whereabouts of players is always known - either at their training ground or matches.''

The Football Association insisted the details of the new drug-testing policy had not been finalised.

An FA spokesman said: "The introduction of a national testing pool in each country is a requirement of the WADA code, but there are still discussions to be had between the FA and UK Sport on the size, composition and testing requirements for English football's pool.

"To be clear, these details have not yet been defined, and the FA will be guided by FIFA's view as our international governing body. We also want the PFA to be involved in these discussions.

"The FA currently runs the biggest drug-testing programme in British Sport, with 1,600 tests conducted every season.

"Our programme is run in conjunction with UK Sport and joint-funded by the two bodies. The bulk of testing is random, unannounced, out-of-competition testing at training grounds.

"We are committed to being at the forefront of the fight against doping.''

Andy Parkinson, UK Sport's head of operations for drug-free sport, said he was not setting out to make life difficult for footballers but trying to "protect their sport''.

"Players have licence to take anything they want in the summer as they disappear off our radar,'' he told The Sun.

"I'm not arguing they do take things - but when England didn't qualify for the last European Championships, they didn't reappear until six weeks later before pre-season training. They could have done anything.

"Under this, they could be in Barbados and we can still test them. We are not evil regulators out to make life difficult for footballers. We're trying to protect their sport.''

Anti-drug testers currently pick two players at random for a urine sample after every match.

Among those punished for drug offences in the past have been former Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, sacked by the club and awarded a nine-month ban in 2003 after testing positive for cocaine.

Another Chelsea player, Adrian Mutu, was also suspended by the FA for seven months in 2004 after failing a drugs test.

The FA confirmed they will still be able to ban players for cocaine use in the future, even if the test is out of competition.

The FA spokesman added: "Under the WADA prohibited list, cocaine is only prohibited in competition. However, the FA's social drugs programme, also supported by UK Sport, goes beyond the WADA code in also prohibiting players from taking social drugs out of competition.

"This is borne out of a belief that footballers should be drug-free at all times.

"Under our doping control regulations, a positive out-of-competition test for a social drug such as cocaine can, and does, result in a ban of up to six months for a first offence.''


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