Football - 15 Feb 2013 - Fifa, soccer’s international governing body, has pledged to introduce biological profiling of players for its next two major tournaments, the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup, as part of an intensified fight against doping.
The move has been welcomed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has been critical of the stance of soccer, if not of Fifa itself, on the threat of performance-enhancing drugs.
Similar profiling, based on the use of biological passports, already occurs in sports such as cycling and athletics, which have been prone to doping scandals, and Fifa wants to show that it is committed to tackling the issue, saying that it plans to have profiles for all players competing at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
The announcement was made following a meeting in Zurich yesterday involving Fifa president Sepp Blatter, Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke, Fifa medical committee chairman Dr Michael D’Hooghe, WADA president John Fahey and WADA secretary general David Howman.
In a statement, Fifa said: “One of the highlights of the discussion was the so-called biological profile, which is considered one of the best methods to detect the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Fifa is developing plans to introduce this new tool, including a steroid profile through urine and a blood profile, for the Fifa Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 and 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil, where in- and out-of-competition tests would be conducted on all participating players.”
This move follows a pilot project launched two years ago in which Fifa captured the steroid profiles of players competing at the Fifa Club World Cup, conducting 178 out-of-competition tests at the 2011 competition and 184 at the 2012 event.
The federation is now developing a hormonal profiling project in collaboration with the WADA-accredited laboratory in Switzerland.
The biological passport, first introduced by the UCI, cycling’s governing body, in 2008, measures and monitors an athlete’s blood variables over time and establishes an individual longitudinal profile that can indicate the use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method.
Earlier this week, Fahey called on international sports federations to step up their efforts to combat doping, singling out soccer as one sport in which activity was insufficient, citing a shortage of testing for EPO, the banned blood booster.
However, he is pleased with the latest developing, saying: “We are very interested in continuing the work on biological profiles. WADA is very satisfied with the commitment of Fifa on the biological profiles, which will be run not only at the Fifa World Cup in 2014 but already at the Fifa Confederations Cup in June this year.”
He added: “There is always more which can be done in the fight against doping, but we know Fifa has always been serious in this domain. We think the leagues can complement what Fifa is already doing, but we came here to thank Fifa for its collaboration.”
D’Hooge defended Fifa’s position on doping, pointing out it was the first international federation to look at longitudinal profiles and claiming that it will spend $2.5 million on the fight against doping next year.
He added: “We will continue at the Fifa Confederations Cup 2013 with blood testing unannounced at training camps and games. And it’s our commitment to have all players participating at the 2014 Fifa World Cup having biological profiles.”
Tennis is another high-profile sport coming under pressure to step up drug testing, and star player Roger Federer, the world number two and the winner of a record 17 grand slams, this week called for the introduction of biological passports, saying that they would help to detect the use of banned substances now and in the future.
World number one Novak Djokovic and number three Andy Murray have also recently come out in favour of extra testing, saying that it would help to prove that tennis is clean.
The International Tennis Federation has come under the spotlight for carrying out only 21 out-of-competition blood tests in the professional game in 2011. By contrast, the UCI carried out more than 3,314 such tests in the same year.
However, officials from the ITF, the four grand slam tournaments, the ATP, the governing body for men's tennis and the WTA, the women's equivalent, are set to meet next month to discuss the need for biological passports and more blood tests, according to the UK's Times newspaper.
The ITF announced yesterday that Czech female player Barbora Zahlakova Strycova has been banned for six months for doping.
Strycova, the world number 124, tested positive for the stimulant sibutramine at the Luxembourg Open on October 16, 2012. The ITF accepted her argument that she had not sought to enhance her performance but annulled her results since that date and imposed a backdated ban which ends on April 15.