International

Players need clarity on illegal highs - lawyer

2017-09-05 19:57
Drug testing (AP Photo)

Manchester - Footballers could be better educated regarding the thorny issue of the penalties for recreational drug use inside and outside of competition, a leading lawyer told AFP on Tuesday.

Football has not, according to the figures, been affected by the scourge of doping like other sports such as cycling or athletics.

Emilio Garcia, the Managing Director of the Integrity Unit for European football's governing body UEFA, said from 3,000 tests conducted annually under their auspices there are around three to five failures and most concern recreational drugs.

However, the penalties are different for those who fail tests for recreational drugs out of competition or in competition -- the latter earns them anything up to a two-year ban.

Some though fall foul of the grey area.

One unnamed footballer took cocaine thinking he was out of competition and pre-season training did not start for a week but the team ended up playing a pre-season friendly during that week, in which he played, and he ended up being tested and was banned for two years.

Kendrah Potts, who was the lead lawyer on sports integrity and anti-doping for the London Olympics, told AFP she believes sports as a whole has come up with a sensible solution in defining the requisite terminology -- providing competitors understand the distinction.

"The reason as UEFA suggested for banning (players) for using recreational drugs outside of competition is they are role models," Kendra Potts told AFP after appearing on a panel discussing "Is Doping a Problem in Football?" at the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester.

"But that doesn't mean it should be a doping violation if you are using it out of competition.

"Sport has come up with a half and half solution. An anti-doping rule violation if you take it in competition, and outside competition it is misconduct because they say it is something that you shouldn't be doing. It is a disciplinary type of offence.

"That actually seems quite sensible and the question is has enough education been done so athletes know what the difference is?"

Potts, who is representing Jamaican sprinter Nesta Carter in his appeal against a positive doping test which led to Usain Bolt having to hand back his 2008 Olympic 4x100 metres relay gold medal, said there was an argument for a blanket ban as some of her fellow members on the panel suggested.

"What some of them were saying is should you have a blanket ban for recreational drugs," said Potts.

"Therefore it would be easier for athletes to understand the regulations.

"There is obviously an argument that it is helpful if it is easier for the athlete to say 'I should never take these'.

"But the justifications for banning it inside and outside of competition are slightly different.

"As one person was saying, the argument for banning it in competition is you don't want people high on drugs going onto a football pitch when he can cause damage to someone."

Potts -- an avid tennis player -- says that for those who do take recreational drugs it is not just the whip being wielded but also an arm round the shoulder.

"If you're taking recreational drugs then yes more sports are moving towards counselling which stems from the governing bodies, so it is not just the clubs who offer help," she said.

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