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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 05:29 GMT 06:29 UK
Drug shock for football
By Dan Warren
BBC Sport

More than 150 professional footballers are likely to be playing under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs, according to a study carried out by the BBC.

And almost half of all players admit they know of a colleague who takes recreational drugs.

The results, which were revealed in BBC One's Real Story documentary on Monday, are likely to shock those who think drugs are a relatively minor problem in British football.

5.6% know of a colleague who uses performance-enhancers
46% know of a colleague who uses recreational drugs
46% think football does have a drug problem
4% admit having an injection of an unknown substance
5.8% say they had advance warning of a drug test
(Based on responses given to the BBC from 700 footballers)

The survey was conducted on behalf of the BBC with the co-operation of the Professional Footballers' Association by Professor Ivan Waddington from the University of Leicester.

If the figures are representative of football as a whole, it translates to 160 players using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) - enough players to fill almost 15 starting line-ups.

Equally alarming is the statistic that nearly half of all footballers know of a colleague who takes recreational drugs.

To date, no Premiership footballer has ever tested positive for PEDs, and there have only been 46 positive tests out of 6,500 for other substances.

But Professor Waddington said the survey's findings cast a shadow over a game previously thought to be relatively drug-free.

"It certainly is a significant minority and it suggests that the use of performance-enhancing drugs is rather more widespread than the FA test results would indicate," he said.

Former England international Ray Wilkins admitted to being "flabbergasted" by the findings.

"I can only put it down to the fact that these guys aren't prepared to work hard enough to make sure they are in good condition," he said.

"They feel they have to take something and cheat."

But former Olympic weightlifter Brian Batcheldor, who has advised athletes how to use steroids safely and effectively, says he is not surprised.

He tells the programme that numerous players have asked him via the internet about the use of steroids.

"There certainly wasn't a resistance to players using this (steroids), so I don't think they viewed as cheating," said Batcheldor.

Alan Hodson, chief medical administrator at the FA, denied that the association's tests were not thorough enough, but he admitted that the findings were worrying.

"You tell me five per cent of the players say there is a performance-enhancing problem," he told the BBC.

"If they are using prohibited substances then I would be concerned about that."


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