When Rio Ferdinand failed to turn up for a drug test in September 2003 it ended up with Utd losing their first choice centre-back for 8 months. For Rio, that was 8 months of both his Utd and England career down the pan, not to mention a £50,000 fine and a reputation in tatters. For Utd, it meant him missing the second half of a season that ended in failure and for England it also meant a weakened defence and a one-way ticket out of Euro 2004.
Now imagine the same thing happening if a player forgets to make a phone call or worst still, makes the call and can’t predict with great accuracy where he’ll be at a given time of day. Because that’s what the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and UK Sport are now expecting professional footballers to do.
As from January 1 2009, the proposed new rules are for players to inform drug-testers of their whereabouts for one hour of every day. Now whilst that’s do-able (even if a little inconvenient) during the season, and even pre-season come to that, surely these rules become totally unworkable in the players’ own free-time?
Imagine even your average man on the street, jetting off to Benidorm, or hot-footing it down to Yarmouth for a couple of weeks of sun, sea and a few pints of Stella. Could he wake up at 9 in the morning and tell anyone exactly where he’ll be between 4 and 5 o’clock that afternoon? Now put a professional footballer in the same position (although not the same holiday destination obviously). Why should they be any different? Ok, so these are highly paid individuals in very privileged positions, but that doesn’t exclude them from having busy private lives. And for them, the consequences of straying from an exact location at an exact time would be to find themselves in a similar position as Ferdinand did.
Simon Taylor, general secretary of the Professional Players’ Federation (PPF), who’s part of a group arguing the case, also throws in the invasive nature of players being watched when they do take a test. However, the reasons for this minor embarrassment are pretty obvious (and it’s not because they’re given marks out of ten!) Far less evident though is how exactly WADA think this total imposition is even achievable, never mind practical.
Personally, I think it’s taking the p***.