How common is doping in soccer

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You’ve probably heard of sports players using drugs to enhance their physical fitness and performance, especially in high-pressure games and championships. But you’ve also probably heard of it far less in soccer, so how common is doping in the soccer world?

In soccer, it’s not common for players to use performance-enhancing drugs. There have been, however, some cases of professional soccer players using illegal recreational substances for the purpose of enhancing their performance, but such activity has been banned by FIFA.

To learn more about doping, what it is, and how common it’s associated with professional soccer, continue reading.

What is doping in soccer?

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Doping, in any sport, is the use of performance-enhancing drugs to build muscle or increase speed, power, and resilience to help improve the player’s performance in the sport. These are most commonly in the form of anabolic steroids or human growth hormone treatments that are injected into the bloodstream or taken in the form of a capsule pill. Other forms of doping include androstenedione, which increases testosterone in the body, as well as blood doping which boosts the number of red blood cells in the body for greater aerobic capacity and stamina.

Doping has become a problem in American Football, the Olympics, in weight training competitions, track and field, cycling, and many other sports. While many of these drugs are legal in some countries and under some strict restrictions, the use of such drugs has been banned in most professional sports and competitions, and players can be removed from a team permanently or for a few months and possibly lose all other sport opportunities if evidence for use has been found. The same goes for professional soccer.

How common is doping in soccer?

While doping is found to be a common problem in many sports, in soccer, it has yet to be found that it is common due to a lack of evidence. This doesn’t mean that doping in soccer does not happen, just that there have been very few proven cases of the use of anabolic steroids or human growth hormone treatments in professional soccer. Of the proven cases of professional soccer players using an anabolic steroid or testosterone hormone treatment for the purpose of improving their performance in soccer, there have been 7. Most of these cases were the anabolic steroid Nandrolene, which increases the body’s production of the hormone testosterone. Much more commonly is the use of illegal substances such as cocaine by professional soccer players for the purpose of improving physical power or mental focus during a big game.

The use of illegal substances in soccer

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Much more common than steroids or other drugs that are created with the intent to increase the production of a certain hormone or improve physical strength and stamina, is the use of other illegal recreational substances by professional soccer players. Whether they be used solely for the purpose of recreation use, to take off the pressure that playing a big game holds, or to improve the players performance in any way, these drugs are often created with the intended use of feeling a high. Because these substances are very damaging to the mental and physical health of those who use them and are highly addictive, they are illegal in most countries. These drugs include substances like cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, and more. Despite the legal consequences of using such illegal substances, there have been more cases of soccer players using a drug like these before a game so that the drug is still circulating through their system or providing lasting effects on the player.

The ban on doping in FIFA

Because of the use of illegal drug substances and legal steroid use for the purpose of enhancing performance, FIFA agreed to an “anti-doping” code. With the signing of the code, FIFA applies a two-year ban on players who have been proven to use drugs for the first time for cheating purposes, and another life-long ban if they repeat their offense after they’ve been let back on the team. FIFA will also do routine checks before competitions in which they take blood and urine samples from all the players, and from two players per team before each match, which are then sent to a doping analysis lab in Switzerland.

UEFA anti-doping controls

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UEFA is another association football governing entity that has put anti-doping controls and regulations in place to prevent the use of doping in the sport by players. These controls have been mandatory since 1987, and allows for blood and urine samples to be taken from all players before any and all stages of tournaments, with or without notice. UEFA may then apply any penalty deemed necessary, including legal action. In the 2006 to 2007 season, UEFA have found the most cases in it’s history, with two cases of cannabis, one case of the steroid Betamethasone used to treat arthritis, and 938 cases of the blood steroid EPO. While many of these cases do not involve the most common forms of steroids, which are intended to increase the production of testosterone for building muscle and increasing stamina, the use of blood doping has been used for the purpose of improving body resilience and therefore game performance.

Cases by country

Here are some reported cases of a professional soccer player (or several players on one team) using a drug to help enhance performance, of which were either accusations or proven cases that received a penalty. Keep in mind that use of illegal substances are not reported nor recorded quite as often as other steroids which are created with the intent to improve physical performance.

CountryType of drugName of playerTeam/ClubName of drugPenalty
AlbaniaSteroidAlban DragushaBesaNandrolene metabolites24 month suspension
ArgentinaLegal stimulantDiego MaradonaNapoliEphedrine18 month suspension
GermanyOne illegal substance and one legal substance13-19 different players1. FC Lok LeipzigMethamphetamine and AmphetamineProven traces were found to be low, and no penalty was issued due to the test being prior to anti-doping program
GermanyIllegal substanceSeveral playersSchalke 04Captagon (amphetamine)Accusation, no penalty yet issued
EnglandAnabolic steroid and illegal substanceBilly TurleyRushden & DiamondsNandrolene and cocaineWarning for steroid, 6-month ban for illegal substance
EnglandAnabolic steroidAbel XavierMiddlesbroughDianobol18-month ban
EnglandIllegal substanceAdrian MutuChelseaCocaine7 month ban, then released from the team
EnglandLegal substanceKolo ToureManchester CityDiet pills6-month ban
EnglandIllegal substanceJake LivermoreHull CityCocaineBan (time-frame TBA)
EnglandIllegal substanceMark BosnichChelseaCocaineTermination of contract
FranceSteroidJean-Jacques Eydelie (and several other players)MarseilleUnknown doping steroidAccusation, no penalty yet issued
ItalyAnabolic steroidManuele BlasiParmaNandrolenePermanent ban
ItalyAnabolic steroidPep GuardiolaBresciaNandroleneBermanent ban, which was later overturned
ItalyAnabolic steroidEdgar DavidsJuventusNandrolene16 month initial ban, reduced to 4
ItalyAnabolic steroidFernando Manuel Silva CoutoLazioNandrolene9 month ban, reduced to 4 after he paid a fine of $60k
SpainAnabolic steroidFrank de BoerBarcelonaNadrolene12 month ban

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