By Andrew Warshaw at Soccerex, Manchester
September 5 – The UEFA official in charge of anti-doping procedures has played down alarming figures provided by the notorious Fancy Bears hacking group by insisting professional footballers are clean.
Last month Fancy Bears claimed that 160 players worldwide failed drugs tests in 2015, rising to 200 the following year though none were identified. The group also released documents alleging that 25 players were allowed to take prohibited substances for medical reasons – known as Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) – at the 2010 World Cup.
FIFA has already distanced itself from the allegations and UEFA’s managing director of integrity, Emilio Garcia (pictured), says that for its part Europe has little worry about when it comes to doping which has cast a dark shadow on a number of other sports.
“We cannot under-estimate the problem but we are happy with the results (of testing),” Garcia told the Soccerex business conference in Manchester. “The problem in football is lower than in other sports.”
UEFA are spending around €5 million a year on its anti-doping programme but Garcia drew a distinction between cheating and TUEs which are prescribed for existing conditions. Although some experts believe TUEs are not always necessary, Garcia insists that requests for their use in UEFA competitions are rigorously examined before permission is given.
“At UEFA we have a specific committee dealing with this and I can assure you that around 30-40% (of requests) are refused,” he told his audience.
One area over which UEFA are particularly keen to take a lead role, Garcia said, was to give footballers a fair hearing on the rare occasions a doping violation is flagged up.
“Whenever there is a doping case, everyone assumes the player is guilty,” he said. “This is something we are trying to change. We have just introduced public hearings for doping cases, this is completely new so we don’t have to hide anything. After all, players have friends and families like everyone else.”
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