Eleven star footballers allowed to play after testing positive for drugs
Eleven Premier League stars were secretly allowed to play on after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
A Sunday Mirror probe reveals 16 tests showed players had taken amphetamine, morphine, Ritalin or Triamcinolone.
Eight were from last season, six from 2017-18 and two from 2016-17.
Triamcinolone is the corticosteroid controversially given to cycling legend Bradley Wiggins before he won the Tour de France in 2012.
The stars were tested by UK Anti-Doping authority (UKAD) but allowed to play on after the FA accepted the drugs were for medical purposes or ingested “via a permitted route”.
But fans never knew – and experts fear the system is open to abuse and soccer could face a doping scandal which has blighted other sports.
Labour’s shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: “With such vast amounts of money being generated from the game, it is vital that fans who spend their hard-earned money know it is being played fairly.
“A lot of work goes into ensuring drug cheats are stamped out. Authorities should look at publishing these results routinely for transparency.”
Former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound claimed sports chiefs do not want to tarnish their reputation by finding drugs cheats.
He fears the problem in soccer could be more widespread, telling the Mirror: “For the largest sport in the world which is highly aerobic, the fact there are so few positive outcomes is a matter of suspicion in its own right.
“The real problem is most of the sports authorities do not wish to have positive tests. They think it’s bad for their reputation. They don’t want to invest in any major effort. My view when running WADA was that FIFA had little if any interest in digging into the problem.
“That’s what cycling used to say. There’d be another test and they’d say it’s not indicative of widespread usage in cycling. Track and field was a bit like that. Weightlifting was a bit like that. Swimming is currently like that. It does take a crisis and then a real uprising to produce some action.”
Any scandal would send a shudder down the spine of soccer’s bigwigs. The Premier League is a huge moneyspinner, raking in £4.5billion in a three-year broadcasting deal.
Some of the 11 players were cleared to play on thanks to Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs).
But Professor Ivan Waddington, a world-renowned authority on doping in sport, warned: “The whole system of TUEs has been deeply flawed from the beginning. If I was a striker and I tested positive for something then of course the doctor would write one.
“I think almost anybody who has studied anti-doping policy seriously would say the TUE system is a central weakness and it has been abused.”
Prof Waddington said his research showed up to 45 per cent of players knew a footballer who had taken recreational drugs.
The 16 tests – known as “adverse analytical findings” – were revealed after the Mirror submitted a Freedom of Information request to UKAD.
They show five players had banned drugs in their system and were given TUEs last season. Amphetamine can be used as a stimulant, while morphine could be considered performance enhancing because it raises players’ pain and endurance threshold.
Ritalin aids concentration but can also improve power in professional athletes. Indapamide was found twice and, although technically not a performance enhancer, it is a blood pressure drug which can mask the presence of other substances.
The unnamed 11 aren’t the first Premier League stars to use TUEs. Former Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt and ex-Man Utd players Carlos Tevez and Gabriel Heinze were among 25 cleared to use banned medicines at the 2010 World Cup.
UKAD said it approved the Premier League TUEs only after a review by an independent panel of three doctors. The FA does not publish the number of “adverse analytical findings”. Of “social” drug use, it said there were just 26 breaches from 2013 to 2018. Cocaine was among drugs used.
A spokesman said: “The FA takes anti-doping extremely seriously and operates one of the most comprehensive programmes across world sport in partnership with UK Anti-Doping.
“It applies to all professional clubs, the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship, as well as the England Men’s, Women’s and Development teams.
“From the 2015-16 to 2018-19 seasons, there were 16 adverse analytical findings (AAFs) in the Premier League. However, an AAF does not automatically lead to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.
In each AAF, the participant was able to prove either: possession of a Therapeutic Use Exemption; show that the substance was ingested via a permitted route; or present in a sample through the ingestion of a substance that is permitted under the WADA code.”
The use of TUEs was called into question after cycling’s Team Sky gave Triamcinolone to asthma-sufferer Sir Bradley.
Team Sky strongly denied Wiggins used the drug to enhance his performance. And the cyclist himself insisted: “Not at any time in my career did we cross the ethical line.”
Spot checks on players
Sports stars can compete legitimately if they have Therapeutic Use Exemption – granted by independent doctors.
Those with a legitimate condition may need to use a prohibited substance if no other permitted medications or treatments can be used.
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