Rooney among first in doping pilot

Footballers Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Gary Cahill will be among the world's first elite athletes to undergo new doping test regimes that scientists hope will cut out the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.

Wayne Rooney will be among the world's first elite athletes to undergo the new doping test regime
Wayne Rooney will be among the world's first elite athletes to undergo the new doping test regime

Players at 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil are to have their blood and urine compared to samples taken in previous competitions to check whether there are any discrepancies.

Their samples will also be stored for a number of years so scientists can re-analyse them in the future.

Doping experts said storing samples would mean that performance-enhancing drugs which were undetectable using current testing methods may be picked up later.

It would also mean that any changes in their biological make-up could be tracked over time. Experts said this would be a "major deterrent" for athletes who considered the use of such drugs.

The news comes after a meeting of major sports federations, leading medics and doping experts which concluded that athletes should have "biological passports".

This would mean that tiny changes to an athlete's unique genetic blueprint made by doping techniques could be identified without the need to identify the substance itself.

Reporting the conclusion of the meeting in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, experts set out a series of recommendations on how to crack down on increasingly sophisticated doping techniques, including storing samples for prolonged periods and the adoption of athlete biological passports.

In an accompanying podcast, Fifa's c hief medical officer Professor Jiri Dvorak said: "The fight against doping has intensified over the last 10 to 15 years.

"The increase of simple sampling procedures both in and out of competition controls does not stop some athletes to continue with doping strategies.

"It has been mentioned that the athletes, or their supporting personnel, are a step ahead of the science. So we discussed whether this is true and whether the current strategy is the right one.

"This strategy was developed in the late 1960s meanwhile the world of sport has changed.

"There is a strong evidence that if you re-analyse the samples from past years that new methods would find them, this is an extremely deterrent method.

"Most of the international federations decided to freeze the samples for a number of years. Fifa will do that from the 2014 World Cup - we will freeze them and keep them as long as we want and we can always revisit the samples."

Prof Dvorak said the method would act as a doping deterrent because athletes could never predict whether or not currently undetectable substances could be found in the future.

Participants in the next World Cup in Brazil in June would have their blood and urine tested at least once before the competition, as well as during it, and Fifa doping experts would compare these to previous sampling analysis, Prof Dvorak said.

"We have decided that we will examine all participating players in the preparation period between now and the World Cup at least once and then we will perform routine procedure during the World Cup and examine blood and urine and we will compare," he said.

"We will compare this data with already existing sample analysis from Champions League, from the Confederations Cup 2013 from the Club World Cup from 2011, 2012 and 2013 so the top players, we will have a number of sampling procedures."

He said this would be a "major pilot" so other sports federations could see how such testing methods could be employed.

On the concept of "biological passports", Prof Dvorak added: "This means we follow the athletes over a period of time.

"That means we can compare different samples from the same athletes being taken over periods of the athlete's career in and out of competition, during different times of the year, pre-competition, during high profile competition and we compare the different parameters in urine for the different steroids and hormones and also in blood which could indicate artificial manipulation of the body by doping substances or methods .

"If this suspicion is given by the data we can perform much more targeted testing.

"There was a consensus among the experts that although this will be more costly in the beginning, in the long run very effective way to combat doping in sport.

"Different federations such as UCI and Fifa have already established the first database on this biological profile of individual athletes."