Doping controls at the World Cup: Rather PR than serious testing

Dopinginspector and fanboy at the WC 2006 // CC BY-SA by fotofreund via

FIFA had a keen plan: Every player at the World Cup was supposed to be tested at least once before the start of the tournament. Well, it didn’t happen. The rather large number of 62 players (that’s almost three complete squads) were not tested before the World Cup. No problem for FIFA, they just tested those players during the tournament. Another issue is the travel time of doping tests. That was much longer than expected and a positive test could have led to severe consequences. Taken all this into account, we had pretty good reasons to look for some weak spots.

[by Jonathan Sachse and Daniel Drepper/ translation: Thomas Bachmann]

For FIFA, it was all a massive success: 91,5 per cent of the targeted amount of doping tests were carried out. However, 62 players were not tested before the tournament. Before the World Cup, we made a public call to keep a close eye on the doping controls. If you look at the result you easily see that many players were simply not available for the initial controls.

One case makes it pretty clear how easy a player could trick the FIFA control system. On May 27, FIFA testers arrived at the training camp of Argentina. Every player except Ezequiel Lavezzi was there. PSG striker Lavezzi had left the camp citing personal reasons shortly before the doping inspectors arrived. Julio Grondona, president of Argentina’s football federation, personally signed Lavezzi’s excuse. It had nothing to do with doping, Grondona claimed.

As most of the pre-tournament tests were carried out in May, most players of Champions League finalists Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid missed those tests. We asked FIFA about that and received this answer: „In accordance with FIFA anti-doping regulations, the remaining players can and will be tested at any time during the competition”.

On July 7, FIFA announced at a press conference that they have tested those 62 players in the meantime. However, we can’t really prove if that’s true. The only sure thing is that five players of Costa Rica were tested additionally to the two players normally tested after the match against Italy.

Those additional tests were communicated by FIFA. However, the fact is that those tests can hardly be described as an out-of-competition control. They were foreseeable and completely without the element of surprise.

We confronted 23 national teams where players haven’t been tested before the World Cup concerning to our list. We simply asked if we were right, which players were concerned and if those were tested later. We received only one answer. Here’s what Australia officials wrote: „All members of our 30 man provisional squad were tested before we departed Australia and we have had regular testing after every match. Outside that it’s not appropriate to discuss individuals.“

By the way, all 674 blood and urin samples taken before the World Cup came back negative. Also all in-competition controls until the semifinals were negative. Those tests were flewn from Brasil to Lausanne. As logistics turned out to be rahter complicated, FIFA was quite lucky no positive test came up. Because if there was an analysis before the next match would have been almost impossible. We wrote about this issue quite detailed a couple of weeks ago.

FIFA medics Jiri Dvorak and Michael D’Hooghe gave some insight on the transport issue on July 7. It took averagely 37 hours for every test from venue to laboratory (Wire copy in German). That is quite some time above our estimation of 24 hours. And even with a travel time of one full day it would not have been possible to have a final analysis before the next match for the concerned player/team.

In the end it was another World Cup without doping for FIFA. Since 1994 there hasn’t been a positive test during a tournament. However, more people become suspicious about doping in football. One of them is Germany’s Home Secretary Thomas de Maizière: „It stands out that there are no positive tests, despite the heat, despite the exciting style of football. But probability as well as analogy to other big sporting events speaks to the contrary.“ is now part of CORRECT!V


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Thanks to the support of CORRECT!V, the project will receive fresh wind and the time to pursue its own research. is in it for the long run, our investigations could still take years. For this reason, the platform is a perfect fit for the non-profit structure of CORRECT!V – a project that isn’t looking to generate clicks and profits, but wants to uncover fundamental structural backgrounds and problems to change society for the better.

In the spring of 2012, only a few weeks before the EM in Poland and Ukraine, I founded this site as a blog-project for the investigative unit of the former WAZ media group to systematically research the abuse of doping substances and pain medication in soccer. I had the feeling that the traditional media wasn’t really reporting on the subject. A year later, the website was nominated for the Grimme Online Award. Since last summer, my friend and colleague Jonathan Sachse supports me.

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FIFA doping controls: Help us tracking!


FIFA announced one new rule in the run-up to the World Cup 2014: All players of all teams should be tested with blood and urin for the so-called biological profile prior to start of the competition. We are trying to track every doping control made by FIFA prior to the upcoming World Cup. Help us to miss nothing and get the complete picture.

Tests for the passport have started March 1 and can go on until June 11. We started one open Google Document. If you read or know something about doping controls by FIFA in your country or national team, you can add these information in the document. Of course you can also shot us a message below or write us on twitter or Facebook and we will add your research in our table.

Have you heard about Ezequiel Lavezzi who missed the doping control in his training camp? Yeah, one reason why we should be keeping an eye on the FIFA doping controls.

Help us tracking. Share this message with your (international) friends.

Thank you so much in advance!

Have you already read our article about the long anti-doping flights from Brasil to Switzerland? If not: Here you go.

The Long Journey of WC Doping Samples

FIFA control document // Screenshot

[by Jonathan Sachse / translation: Thomas Bachmann]

Doping controls during football world cups are extremly ineffective. Not a single player has been tested positive in the past four world cups. And it could get even worse in Brazil as there is the samples might not be able to analysed in time.

Every evening, an airplane leaves Sao Paulo to head to Lausanne. Its precious carriage: Cooled doping samples from the world cup’s footballers. One day it’s samples of German and Portuguese players, the next day it’s urin and blood of Spanish and Dutch players on board. More than 20 of those long flights are scheduled.

You might wonder what’s all the fuzz about and why the samples have to be flown half way around the globe. There’s a delicate background to it. The laboratory in Rio de Janeiro lost its WADA accredidation last year after samples have been falsely analysed as positive. Therefore, FIFA looked for an alternative and picked the distant but trusted lab in Lausanne. Interestingly FIFA could have also picked labs in the US, Canada are other South American countries. Meanwhile, FIFA has admitted its solution could cause serious logistic problems.

Last week, German radio station HR Info put the finger in this particular wound again. The biggest problem is caused by the limited time the Lausanne lab has to analyse the samples. FIFA medical chief Michel D’Hooghe told AP back in April he isn’t „entirely sure“ if the results will be available before the next match a team.

So we also handed in a request. We were keen on getting more information about those doping flights and asked for a flight schedule. However, FIFA refused to hand us those details. Instead, a spokesperson came up with a rather general and very smooth answer: „The Lausanne laboratory is prepared to work 24 hours a day in order to provide the results before the next match of a team.“

So we decided to do the maths ourselves and took a look at the flight route and the probable time it takes to analyse the samples.

After every match, two players of each team are going to be tested. As evening matches end between 5 and 6pm local time and players often need a little while to be able to give a urin sample, it is fair to say this whole process takes up to four hours. That means the samples will leave the stadium at around 10pm.

If you look at the map you easily see the partly massive distances between the stadiums. And keep in mind: The doping flights always start in Sao Paulo.

Considering the distances and Brazil’s infrastructure, the samples need to be taken to Sao Paulo by plane. We listed the approximate flight time in the table below.

Once they’ve reached Sao Paulo, the cooled samples will all be put in to the plane to Lausanne. Let’s say everything works according to plan, then the plane leaves Brazil in the early morning after the match and touches down in Switzerland 14 hours later. So it takes a whole day to take the samples from the stadium to the lab. Again, only if everything works out smoothly.

Andrea Gotzmann, CEO of the German anti-doping agency NADA, explained in a debate on May 21 that a lab needs indeed 24 hours to confirm a sample as negativ. However, if some dodgy parameters come up during the analysis the whole process is much, much longer as everything has to be done again more detailled.

FIFA anti-doping rules (61.1) also state that a player has another 12 hours to request the B-sample if he was tested positive. And now the tricky bit: For the B-sample to be opened, a representative of the player’s club or national team has to be present. In this case, he or she has to be in Lausanne.

To sum it all up: The teams at the world cup have to play every four days. If a player is tested positive it would be highly unlikely that this test will be published before the next match. Another concern we haven’t even mentioned yet is the rising risk of the sample to be damaged the longer the transport is.

But to be frank that’s all very much a theory. The probability of a player to be tested positive during the world cup is pretty close to zero. So far only three players were caught during a world cup. Ernst Jean-Joseph (1974) from Haiti and Willie Johnston (1978) from Scotland were caught at a time were doping tests were carried out rather sporadic. Only since 1994 as FIFA states in this document (p. 10) tests are carried out and analysed professionally. In 1994, no other than Diego Maradona was tested positive for ephedrine and was subsequently excluded from the world cup.

After 1994? Absolutely nothing! Over the past four world cups more than 4000 samples were taken and not a single one was positive. So no one’s doping anymore on football’s biggest stage? Or is it the doping controls that are ineffective?

FIFA is eager to praise its own anti-doping fight and the introduction of the biological passport. For the first time, blood and urin parameters are taken to create a biological profile of a player. Tests for the passport have started March 1, the German squad was tested on May 26. Before the world cup, only NADA might test the German players again, but those results won’t be included in the biological passport. Other national teams were tested as well, but some player missed the FIFA tests. We started this Google Document where you can read all tests from every country. Feel free to share additional information.


Don’t get me wrong, the passport is the right way to go. But in the current state it has hardly any value. So considering the logistic challenges it would be a massive surprise if a world cup player will be tested positive.

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Francois Marque banned for six matches

© Jonathan Sachse

The German Football Federation’s tribunal has ruled the positive test of Francois Marque as a doping offense. However, the defender of third division side Saarbrücken FC has been only banned for six matches as he didn’t use a classic performance enhancing product. The DFB published the verdict on its website (Press Release in German).

[by Jonathan Sachse / translation: Thomas Bachmann]

To bring you up to speed, we put together a chronology of the Marque case from the positive test to the verdict.

Nov 30, 2013

Marque is asked to deliver a urin sample after the match against RB Leipzig. A week later, the lab informs the DFB about the positive test. The cortisone product is free to be used in training, but can only be applied in competition with a medical exemption. Marque was not able to present such an exemption.

Jan 20, 2014

Shortly before Marque’s hearing, the Saarländische Rundfunk (SR) breaks the story of the case. The player asks for the B-sample to be analysed. Weiterlesen

European doping test systems: Record positives in Portugal

Fußballnation Portugal / Twitter-Nutzer agu2000_de; CC BY 2.0)

More than 100 positive doping tests have been discovered in Portuguese football over the last ten years. That’s quite remarkable and by far the record number in European football. What’s the reason for so many positive tests? The answer is to be found in the Portuguese control system.

[by Jonathan Sachse / translation: Thomas Bachmann]

In December, we published the first results of our research about doping controls in European football. Now we dig a little deeper and are going to analyse the various systems. We kick it off with Portugal.

Who gets tested and where?

Portugal’s anti-doping agency ADoP carries out all tests. A minimum of two matches of the first division (Liga ZON Sagres) and one match of the second division (Liga2 Cabovisao) will be drawn every match day. There are only three out-of-competition tests per team in the first division and two per team in the second division over the whole season. Weiterlesen

Dopingcase in German Football

Francois Marque / CC 3.0 via Ligue de Football Professionel

There is a new doping case in Germany’s professional football. Doping control officers found a cortisone substance in Francois Marque’s blood. His club 1. FC Saarbrücken (third division) confirmed the positive test of the French player, says German public TV ARD.

The forbidden substance was found after a game against RB Leipzig on November 30st. 31st. A- and B-sample were positive. German football federation DFB wants to deal with the case in a hearing next Monday.

According to ARD the positive sample was caused by a cortisone-containing ointment. Athletes need therapeutic use exemptions from a national doping agency to use these sort of creams. His club 1. FC Saarbrücken seems to think that the positive test is a form error. Maybe they reference to a missing use exemption. Weiterlesen

Holey doping tests all over Europe

Screen on

The doping tests in Europe’s top football leagues are full of holes. Still, there have been more than 300 doping cases in the last couple of years. An investigation for Spiegel Online done by looked into the different anti doping systems in European football.

The German football federation DFB says that they have the second best doping control system in the whole world. We looked into that statement. We asked football federations and anti doping agencies in 20 countries, read their annual reports and also WADA reports. After that we produced a multimedia feature for the biggester German news website Spiegel Online. The piece was published today. Weiterlesen

Trouble on Corsica

Fabrizio Ravanelli has played for Juventus Turin from 1992 to 1996. At that time Juve was involved in one of the biggest doping scandals football ever had. Ravanelli became a coach. Last Sunday the French club AJ Ajaccio (Ligue 1) fired him. According to LeMonde one of his former players blamed Ravanelli to force players to take dubious nutrition supplements.

Ravanelli came to Ajaccio in June. Before that he led the training centre at and the reserve team of Juventus Turin. Ravanelli brought his longtime companion to Corsica, athletics trainer Giampiero Vetrone. Ravanelli and Vetrone got to know each other back in 1994 at Juventus Turin. Weiterlesen

Sepp Blatter on drug-fight: “We lag behind”

Football page of DIE ZEIT (issue 39/2013)

Sepp Blatter surprised with some rather critic statements on FIFA’s fight against doping. The president of football’s world governing body not only confirmed that the sport has a doping problem, but Blatter also says FIFA lags far behind in the fight against doping especially in detecting new drugs. In the case of Germany, Blatter claims the country needs to implement an anti-doping law in order to attack the issue of doping in football.

[by Jonathan Sachse and Daniel Drepper / translation: Thomas Bachmann]

So far, Sepp Blatter never really appeared too keen to address the doping issue in football. However, what he said in a public talk in Zurich organised by German weekly DIE ZEIT might have surprised many of Blatter’s critics. Parts of the interview were published in the current issue of DIE ZEIT. Weiterlesen