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Volume 6 No. 214

International Football

The leaders of the World Anti-Doping Agency "have turned their sights on football, accusing the sport of turning a blind eye to possible abuse of performance-enhancing drugs by its own athletes," according to Owen Slot of the LONDON TIMES. WADA President John Fahey and Dir General David Howman both pointed out that football "did not have a drug-testing system that inspires confidence or credibility." Howman said that football "does not test for EPO, a drug that assists an athlete’s endurance, and thus would be an ideal illegal supplement for a 90-minute game." Fahey said that the "new and effective weapon of the anti-doping police is the athletes’ biological passport -- and yet football does not use it" (LONDON TIMES, 2/12). In London, Owen Gibson reported Howman said that "after years of trying it was now making significant progress with professional team sports in the U.S. and called on football to follow the example of Major League Baseball." Howman said, "Each baseball player on the roster of a major league team will be tested four times a year. I know I'm talking quantity, rather than quality, but if you transfer that approach to the Premier League and ask whether every player in the Premier League had been tested four times in a year I think we all know what the answer is" (GUARDIAN, 2/12).

PLENTY OF ADVICE: Also in London, Matt Majendie reported Fahey said that football and other sports "should follow cycling, which has used biological passports to try and stop doping." Fahey said, "While testing is a good deterrent factor and may be an effective way of catching people, I would argue the athlete biological passport is a very effective tool." He added: "Why isn’t football using it? Again, why aren’t the four football codes in my country using it? They can, and in my view it would make them more effective" (EVENING STANDARD, 2/12). The AP's Rob Harris reported Fahey also urged football to "use intelligence" after highlighting its importance to a case against Lance Armstrong being built up by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Fahey said, "All NADOs (national anti-doping agencies) should examine the way that USADA used intelligence to build the case against Mr. Armstrong, and to implement similar components into their anti-doping programs so that they can undertake investigations with WADA's guidance" (AP, 2/12). The AFP reported a global athletes' lobby ground said that WADA "needs a massive shake-up." Swiss-based UNI Sport PRO -- an umbrella group of national and int'l sporting associations representing some 100,000 members worldwide -- said that WADA "had fallen short in the 14 years since it was established." UNI Sport PRO said, "The Lance Armstrong doping scandal and the Australian Crime Commission investigations demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the current WADA testing regime" (AFP, 2/12).

THE CHINESE LINK: REUTERS' John Mehaffey reported Howman said that "virtually all the raw materials used by criminal gangs throughout the world to produce illegal performance-enhancing drugs come from China." Howman said, "Ninety-nine percent of the raw materials that are used through the Internet to make up in your kitchen or your backyard laboratory are emanating from China." He added: "They are going to gangs who then put them together in little plastic capsules and are sold on the street or in the gyms." Howman said he thought at least 25% of int'l sport was now controlled "to one degree or another" by the underworld. Howman: "And as we go on I think you will see that increase. That's a concern, because that hits at the heart and the integrity of sport that we have grown up with" (REUTERS, 2/12).

Barcelona spokesperson Toni Freixa gave the club's stance on the Supreme Court's decision to oblige former President Joan Laporta and seven directors to present guarantees to cover more than €23M ($31M) in losses for the '02-03 season. Freixa said, "It’s a clear sentence and the decision is unquestionable. It clarifies for once and for all the mandate of the previous board. We expect that we will receive the guarantee, because we live in a society which respects the law. The sentence orders the accused to guarantee the debt -- not to pay it off." He added, "We are waiting for the club member who made the original charges to ask for the sentence to be carried out. We won’t rule out getting a guarantee which the law has provided." Under Spanish law, the sentence will only be carried out if the person who brought the original accusation wishes for it to be so (FC Barcelona).

The torching of Israeli Premier League club Beitar Jerusalem's offices "by fans angry at the signing of two Muslim players has sparked a major outcry which both supporters and ex-players hope could end decades of open racism at the club," according to Steve Weizman of the AFP. Along with "trophies, pictures and other memorabilia, a pair of boots and a jersey worn by former Beitar and Israel star Eli Ohana went up in smoke." It will be a "small price to pay if it ends up spelling an end to years of xenophobia." Ohana said, "If it will be the straw that breaks the camel's back and fixes the problem, then they can burn another two rooms. If this can be wiped out, it will be worth even this price." PM Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the arson as "shameful." He said, "Lately, we have seen displays of extremism that we find unacceptable. These must be uprooted, of course, from the world of sports. " In Israel, the offence of "incitement to racism" can result in a jail term, "but so far courts have not hit them with the full force of the law, only slapping offenders with a fine or excluding them from matches." Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said that it "is about to change." Rosenfeld said, "We're now in the second stage of ongoing investigations, finding and tracking down those that are leading the incitement to racism, using such means as are necessary to make arrests, including before incidents occur" (AFP, 2/12).

Inter Milan has been fined €15,000 ($20,100) after fans "chanted racist slogans" about their former striker Mario Balotelli during a Serie A match on Sunday. Serie A said in a statement that Inter had been fined because their fans "directed insulting chants and expressions of racial discrimination towards the player of another team" (REUTERS, 2/12). ... Barcelona spokesperson Toni Freixa revealed President Sandro Rosell and VP Xavier Faus will travel to Israel and Palestine "to reinforce the institutional and commercial relations" of the clubs with both countries. The trip is scheduled for Feb. 21-23. They will meet with Israel President Shimon Peres and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas (SPORT, 2/12). ... Around 2,000 Bradford and Swansea fans will travel to the League Cup final for free "thanks to an initiative" from competition sponsor Capital One. The company bought the sponsorship rights for the tournament last summer and has paid for 42 buses that will take supporters of the two finalists to Wembley on Feb. 24 in an initiative called the "Capital One Convoy" (London DAILY MAIL, 2/11).