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Fans are 'naive' to think performance enhancing drugs aren't in football

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Earlier this month it was confirmed that Dynamo Zagreb’s Arijan Ademi had tested positive for the anabolic steroid, Stanozolol. The same steroid found to have been used by Canadian 100m sprinter, Ben Johnson at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Ademi has been given the strongest punishment by UEFA, a four-year ban from European competition, something which the Macedonian international will appeal against.

Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger has not been reserved in his opinion that his side's 2-1 defeat to the Croatian outfit should not stand. Wenger has also claimed that Arsenal are now being targeted by UEFA, where 10 anti-doping officials turned up at training on Friday to carry out 'random' checks on his players.

Dynamo manager, Zoran Mamic, has rubbished Wenger’s claims that the result should have been made void. UEFA have also defended their decision, saying that it abides to the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

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In an interview with French magazine L’Equipe, as reported by the Guardian, Wenger said, “In 30 years of my coaching career, I never got one of my players injected to be more efficient. I never gave them a product that can improve performance. It is about pride.

"I’ve played against a lot of teams that were not in this state of mind,” stated Wenger.

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This is not the first time the Frenchman has spoken out about performance enhancing drugs in football, in 2004, he said that he believed some of his own players showed signs that they had taken erythropoietin (EPO), without their own explicit knowledge.

EPO is a banned substance that is used to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Wenger told the Independent: "We have had some players come to us at Arsenal from other clubs abroad and their red blood cell count has been abnormally high, that kind of thing makes you wonder…

“There are clubs who dope their players without the players knowing… The club might say that they were being injected with vitamins and the player would not necessarily know that it was something different."

This was the case with former Real Madrid midfielder, Zinedine Zidane, who has admitted to taking a list of performance-enhancing drugs while playing for Juventus, claiming that - at the time - he believed them to be vitamins.

It was a remarkable era for the club, The Old Lady won Serie A titles in 1995, 1997 and 1998, and reached the Champions' League final in three successive years, winning it in 1996. They also won the European Super Cup, the Coppa Italia and two Italian Super Cups. Juventus club doctor, Riccardo Agricola, was sentenced to 22 months in jail for supplying players, such as Zidane with performance-enhancing drugs between 1994 and 1998.

When speaking on Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement, Matt Lawton recalled the quote that Juventus’ medical department was “the size of a small hospital”, something that still resounds with him today.

Lawton has warned that it would be naive to ignore Wenger’s concerns about doping in football and he would not be surprised to see further developments to this story in the near future. Jeremy Wilson, also speaking on the show, claims that Wenger’s experiences of match fixing in the French League, have made the 66-year-old more cautious and aware of what is going on within the game.

While managing Monaco in the early 90’s, he twice team missed out of the French league title, coming second to Marseille, whose owner was discovered to have paid off opponents to ensure success.

Wenger believes that more must be done to catch the cheats and deter players from following suit. Speaking to the Sunday Express, he said, “Honestly, I don’t think we do enough”, claiming that it is very difficult for him to “believe that you have 740 players in the World Cup and you come out with zero problems.”

He continued: “When you have a doping control at UEFA, they do not take blood, they take only urine. I have asked many times in Geneva [for that to be changed].”

The Arsenal boss has offered his support for blood testing, but claims not everybody is ready to do that. He believes there are teams competing in UEFA's competitions that may be guilty. Speaking after the emergence of Operación Puerto, Wenger said, “What I’m concerned about in the trial of the Spanish doctor, is that the authorities just want to see how he did the doping. They are not interested at all in who he has doped.”

Operación Puerto is the code name of a Spanish Police operation against the doping network of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. The operation resulted in a scandal involving several of the world's most famous cyclists at the time. Critically, sportspeople from other disciplines, including football and tennis have also been connected with the scandal according to French magazine, El Pais.

The French publication reported that Dr. Fuentes was outraged that only cyclists were named, saying he had also worked with tennis and football players. In September 2006, former cyclist Jesus Manzano told reporters from French TV channel, France 3, that he had seen "well-known footballers" from Spanish football’s La Liga visiting the offices of Dr. Fuentes.

Wenger has also stated on record that performance enhancing drugs could be highly beneficial to players and clubs seeking to gain an advantage, especially when playing in both domestic and European competitions such as the Champions League.

“Top-flight footballers now run around 10km in each game and often play more than 50 games a season. Stamina is vital in the modern game and a hormone like EPO, which increases the oxygen-carrying capability of blood, aids that,” he said.

The judge of Operación Puerto, Julia Patricia Santamaria, rejected the request by the WADA and the Spanish national anti-doping organisation to hand over the 211 bags of blood, plasma and other documentary evidence seized by police from the clinic of Dr. Fuentes.

Dick Pound, the former head of WADA has condemned the decision by Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria, claiming it “seriously undermines the credibility of sport.”

Identification of these blood samples could cause a huge stir for clubs throughout Europe and while the English game has been largely unaffected by performance enhancing drugs for a while now, there will always be a temptation to use such a readily available product.

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Topics:
Arsene Wenger
Zinedine Zidane
Football
UEFA Champions League

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