Resistance to out of competition testing for English Soccer

By Shane Stokes

WADA chief Dick Pound has become known for his highly vocal stance when it comes to the subject of doping in sport. Following criticisms of cycling, which were published in recent days in the Guardian newspaper, the Canadian now looks set for a run-in with some of those involved in English soccer.

Professional Footballer's Association chief executive Gordon Taylor voiced his strong opposition to out of competition testing this week, saying that the PFA would fight plans to collect samples away from the training ground.

Under the plans, football would follow the same rules currently governing Olympic sports; namely, that players would be liable to be tested at little notice at home and in other locations. Cyclists are amongst those who are already required to undergo such testing, but Taylor is having none of the new plans, stating that the PFA would do what it could to stop them being implemented.

"This testing is not acceptable. It is a total invasion of their privacy," Taylor was quoted in the British media this week. "The players will fight this collectively and this could be a test of strength. Players feel that they have little privacy as it is and this would make them feel as if they had none at all. This could be an issue of human rights. It's too early to talk of a strike but we will take a tough stance."

Resistance to the notion of full testing was encountered two years ago when Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand was called to provide an out-of-competition sample at the team's training ground. Ferdinand missed the test, later saying that he forgot about the sample and went shopping instead. Somewhat predictably, this met with sharp criticism and a ban from competition, although his eight months suspension with pay was not a particularly tough rap on the knuckles.

Concerns that football does not take testing seriously enough will have been compounded by Taylor's stance and his talk of human rights issues, especially after other sports have long accepted the requirement to provide out-of-competition samples. For his part, Pound reiterated the need for soccer to comply. "By testing players only at training it gives them the chance to get away with drug use," he said.

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