Football players and doping
By Amrit Johal Sports Legal Consultant
The pressures on young professional people to succeed in today’s highly competitive world are enormous! Not least on young professional football players who are starting out on their careers.
Unfortunately, they may be tempted to cut corners and cheat by using drugs to enhance their performances; or relieve their stress and anxiety by resorting to recreational drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine.
Despite the efforts of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Sports Governing Bodies themselves, not least the International Olympic Committee (IOC), doping continues to be a scourge on sport, threatening its core values and integrity – namely, fair competition.
We have recently witnessed the alleged State-sponsored systemic doping engaged in by RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, as exposed in the McLaren Reports, issued in July and December 2016, and the subsequent life-time bans imposed by the IOC on many Russian athletes. Under the WADA rules, the minimum sanction for a doping offence has now been increased from two to four years; and, in serious doping cases, an athlete, may be banned for life.
As far as football is concerned, generally speaking, the use of performance enhancing drugs has not been much of a problem, apart from a few isolated cases in England and Continental Europe.
The intensive and widespread testing of players, in view of Sochi 2014, for performance-enhancing drugs in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which was held in Russia from 14 June – 14 July, did not yield any positive results.
However, the use of recreational drugs in football is another story.
In the 1994 World Cup, Diego Maradona failed a drugs test for cocaine and ephedrine and was banned for 15 months.
More recently, Adrian Mutu, the former Romanian professional footballer, failed a drugs test for cocaine in September 2004 and was sacked by his then club Chelsea in October 2004. He was also fined £20,000 and banned for seven months by the English Football Association.
Apart from all this, Chelsea sought compensation from him for breach of contract without just cause, and eventually were awarded €17.2 million by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber. Subsequently, he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming breach of his right to a fair trial, but his appeal was dismissed on 2 October 2018 and the compensation award was upheld.
What a saga and tragedy! And an expensive one too!
The Mutu case, therefore, should serve as an object lesson and deterrent for any young football players indulging in recreational drugs.
In representing professional football players - especially young ones - the health and sporting risks of doping - whether performance-enhancing or recreational - need to be pointed out and any professional help/guidance sought - without delay - in respect of any addictions for such drugs that may come to light. Prevention is always better than cure!
The health and well-being of a player, I would say, is just as important as the health of his bank balance - if not more so!