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Sep 13, 2011

FA defends doping policy

The Football Association insists it will not start naming footballers who have failed tests for recreational drugs after a television documentary named several players on Monday night.

Channel 4's Dispatches programme exposed players who have tested positive in recent seasons, the most high profile being former Birmingham City player Garry O'Connor, who is now in the Scottish Premier League with Hibernian. O'Connor was banned for use of cocaine in 2009.

It was claimed that the FA's policy on drug testing was not strict enough, but the FA defended its right to preserve the anonymity of those who have transgressed in favour of rehabilitation.

Basic details of all such bans are published on the UK Anti-Doping Agency website, so claims that the bans are hidden appear to be false.

While players who take performance enhancing drugs can be banned for two years, those caught taking recreational drugs face a ban of up to six months.

In a statement, the FA said: "The FA operates a comprehensive anti-doping programme which is the largest of any sport in the UK.

"The FA prohibits all the doping offences listed in the World Anti-Doping Agency code and applies all the sanctions laid down in the code for those offences.

"In addition, the FA, supported by all the football stakeholders, recognise the issues that social drugs may cause and choose to go beyond the WADA Code by proactively testing all samples for social drugs, irrespective of whether the tests are conducted in or out of competition.

"Football is one of the only sports in the UK that ban social drugs at all times, and were the first to do so.

"Any player who tests positive for a social drug out of competition is charged and subject to a sanction which ordinarily includes a suspension from all football activity for a period of up to six months for a first time offence.

"They are also subject to target testing for a period of two years. The FA do not report the name of the player as this offence is not a WADA Code offence and privacy allows for the player to undergo any necessary rehabilitation and counselling.

"All England representative teams are subject to UEFA and FIFA regulations whilst Premier and Football League clubs and players are subject to strict FA whereabouts regulations.

"Players are drug tested on a no-advance notice basis. Testing can take place at matches, training grounds, players' home addresses and locations abroad. Seventy per cent of all FA drug tests are conducted out of competition, as recognised by WADA as the most effective means of deterring and detecting doping.

"Any club or player in breach of the FA whereabouts regulations are subject to disciplinary processes.

"In addition to the testing programme, the FA, along with its stakeholders, engages all professional and youth players in a comprehensive education programme every year.''

David Howman, director general of the World Anti Doping Agency, believes the FA should consider naming players.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "Why does there have to be so much secrecy? When sports people get involved with substances that are ordinarily part of a criminal justice programme, what is so special about sport that it ought not to come into the public arena?

"There will of course be times when revealing a player's identity might seriously compromise his rehabilitation, particularly if he has a serious drug addiction or a medical condition. I accept the need for confidentiality in such cases.

"But in such a circumstance, why not announce the positive drug test, then publish a statement explaining why the player has not been named? If you are going to withhold a player's identity, then you should at least provide the justification.

"The FA should not allow a perfectly good programme to be tainted by secrecy. If a player needs to be protected, then give us the reason why. Don't give the public the chance to suspect the worst.''

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