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Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Home drugs test idea upsets PFA

Football and drugs - generic graphic

The players' union is opposed to the idea of footballers having to undergo testing for drug use in their homes.

One player per team is tested after each match but in future 30 players may undergo a further five tests a year.

As with British Olympic athletes, they must reveal their location for an hour each day, including summer holidays.

"We feel to invade the privacy of a player's home is a step too far," said Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor.

"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."

Expected to be introduced in July 2009
A testing pool of 30 players selected by UK Sport and the FA
Players must say where they will be for one hour each day in advance
Players can alter their location up to a minute before the hour in question
Two-year ban if a player misses three tests
The tests aim to bring football into line with the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) code, which requires football to align itself with the testing initiatives of Olympic and other team sports such as rugby and cricket.

UK Sport, the agency that funds Olympic sport and runs Britain's anti-doping programme, claims that the "whereabouts ruling", in which locations are disclosed by athletes in advance, has been working well in other sports for years.

John Steele, UK Sport's chief executive, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "This move is really getting whereabouts into the professional soccer game, to bring them in line with other athletes and continue the fight against doping across all our sports.

"Anything we can do that furthers that battle is very positive."

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand received an eight-month ban for failing to attend a drugs test at the club's Carrington training ground in 2003.

And former Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Bosnich was sacked by the club and awarded a nine-month ban in the same year, having tested positive for cocaine.

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

The practice of declaring an athlete's whereabouts for an hour each day in advance, to allow drugs tests to be administered at short notice, is common to Olympic sports such as cycling and athletics.

All British Olympians, regardless of their sport, were subject to similar tests and restrictions in the build-up to the Beijing Games and the same rules will apply to footballers.

According to the the FA, that means any player missing three drugs tests will be subject to a two-year ban under current regulations.

Sprinter Christine Ohuruogu incurred a year-long ban from her sport in 2006 when she failed to turn up in her stated location, missing anti-doping testers on three occasions.

She also received a lifetime ban from the Olympic Games but the suspension was later overturned on appeal.

While Olympic athletes are now familiar with the routine, footballers may not take kindly to being tied down to a specific location at a set time each day.

However, players will be able to change their whereabouts with only one minute's notice.

For example, a player scheduled to arrive at a training ground at midday could alter his arrangements by text messaging anti-doping testers at one minute to noon, if he were stuck in traffic or held up at home.

Andy Parkinson, UK Sport's head of operations for a drug-free sport, insisted he was not setting out to make life difficult for footballers.

Christine Ohuruogu and Rio Ferdinand
Ohuruogu and Ferdinand have been high-profile casualties of missed tests
"The last thing we want is for football to be in that position where it doesn't focus enough - doesn't put controls in place - and suddenly finds itself a sport with a fantastic profile in a crisis," he told The Sun newspaper.

"The identity of the players on the list will be decided by UK Sport and the FA.

"We'll take into account behaviour of athletes in the past, long-term injuries, where maybe they disappeared to Eastern Europe for six months to get an injury sorted, or if they have had a (previous) doping violation."

The new tests will look for both performance-enhancing drugs and recreational substances.

The use of social drugs such as cocaine is only prohibited during competition by Wada but the FA's stance is to prohibit their use out of competition as well.

"This is borne out of a belief that footballers should be drug-free at all times," said an FA spokesman.

"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.

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

It is reported that UK Sport and FA officials will meet in the next couple of months to draw up a players' register ahead of the move.

The scheme is expected to begin next season, with a new version of the Wada code set to be introduced on 1 January 2009.

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see also
Mutu lodges appeal over damages
05 Sep 08 |  Chelsea
IOC promises tougher drugs policy
10 Apr 08 |  Beijing 2008
Drug tests for every GB Olympian
26 Mar 08 |  Beijing 2008
New body to tackle UK drug cheats
05 Dec 07 |  Sport Homepage
UK athletics chief backs Ohuruogu
27 Nov 07 |  Athletics
Olympic ban reprieve for Ohuruogu
27 Nov 07 |  Athletics
UK Sport defiant over test policy
28 Feb 07 |  Athletics
FA bans unnamed player for drugs
17 Jan 05 |  Football
Chelsea sack Mutu
29 Oct 04 |  Chelsea
Ferdinand ban upheld
18 Mar 04 |  Man Utd
Ferdinand banned for eight months
19 Dec 03 |  Football

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