UEFA's new sample storage and retesting process, the latest weapon in its anti-doping armoury, is now up and running.
A meeting of the UEFA anti-doping panel last week was informed that samples taken at matches in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA EURO and UEFA Super Cup were now being collected for long-time storage to enable future retesting from this season onwards.
From this season these samples will be stored for future analysis, and can be retested at any time. If new analysis on a stored sample shows and proves an anti-doping rule violation, then the player will be suspended in accordance with Article 2(1) of the UEFA anti-doping regulations in force at the time of the violation. Furthermore, players may receive an additional sanction under Article 6 of the UEFA disciplinary regulations, such as withdrawal of a medal or a fine.
Team consequences are foreseen by Article 12 of the UEFA anti-doping regulations (team consequences) in case of more than two players being found positive after retesting. Sanctions as listed in Article 6 of the UEFA disciplinary regulations may include a fine, withdrawal of a title or award, deduction of points (for current or future competition), disqualification from competitions in progress, and/or exclusion from future competitions. A statute of limitations of ten years applies for all anti-doping rule violations.
"UEFA is always keen to use whatever means at its disposal to fight against doping in football," said anti-doping panel chairman Mogens Kreutzfeldt. "Storage and retesting has a clear deterrent effect. We will keep all samples for retesting should new methods become available.
"Retesting will be targeted based on intelligence and on the emergence of any new illegal substances previously unknown," he added, "and on any new testing techniques that have been developed in the time since the samples were taken."
The anti-doping panel meeting also received an update on UEFA's anti-doping activities so far in the 2015/16 season. This year has seen the successful introduction of the athletes' biological passport (ABP), which will see over 1,500 players with new steroid passports by the end of the season. Already this term, UEFA has conducted over 1,100 in-competition and over 400 out-of-competition tests.
UEFA has also stepped up its cooperation and knowledge-sharing with other anti-doping stakeholders, and agreements have now been signed with 21 national anti-doping agencies (NADOs): Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (agreement with Russia suspended).
The objective is that as many agreements as possible will be signed with the national anti-doping agencies of all 24 participating UEFA EURO 2016 countries before the tournament begins in June.
UEFA EURO 2016 will be notable for one of the most comprehensive anti-doping testing operations ever carried out in a team sport.
Out-of-competition testing will begin in March, and in-competition testing will involve blood and urine testing at all 51 matches. A team of 20 doping control officers (all qualified medical doctors) will be on-site in France.
Further details of the anti-doping programme for the tournament will be relayed to the teams. and announced at the UEFA EURO 2016 finalists' workshop in Paris in early March.