How Prevalent is the Use of Performance-enhancing Drugs in Football?

All athletes wish to obtain an edge over their rivals. For the majority, this equates to high volumes of training and regularly analysing any weaknesses that may be present. It is nonetheless a rather unfortunate fact that a handful of well-known personalities have employed performance-enhancing substances in order the take their game to the next level. Perhaps the most famous recent example involves the rise and fall of cyclist Lance Armstrong. Not only did this professional admit that he had been taking such substances for a rather long time, but his Tour de France title was actually rescinded as a result.

Some sports are associated with performance-enhancing substances more than others. American football, powerlifting and baseball have all been tainted by this epidemic. However, what about association football? Have there ever been any instances and perhaps most importantly, might the presence of these drugs become more pronounced in the future?


Few and Far Between

The good news is that footballers do not seem to be as attracted to performance-enhancing drugs when compared to other sports professionals. Having said this, there have indeed been a number of athletes who tested positive for doping.

One instance can be traced back to the 2002-2003 season. It was discovered that goalkeeper Billy Turley had been taking a steroid known as Nandrolone. He was let off with a mere warning. Abel Xavier of Middlesborough was likewise found to have taken a similar drug during the 2005 season. As a result, he was banned from the sport by the UEFA for a total of 18 months. Most recently, Mamadou Sakho of Liverpool fame was suspected of having taken an illegal fat burner. However, all charges were dropped after a further investigation.

A Drug-Enhanced Future?

The big question (and one which is the most difficult to answer) involves whether or not these types of substances will become more prevalent in the future. Might up-and-coming players be tempted due to the presence of such formidable personalities such as Ronaldo and Messi? We also need to recognise that a growing number of chemicals are becoming harder to detect via traditional methods. Furthermore, there are always chances that a player may be tipped off to an upcoming test; allowing him to circumvent the rules in some manner.

The ultimate answer nonetheless boils down to sheer temptation and willpower. Had they been provided with the opportunity, would past football greats have chosen to take illicit drugs in order to take their performance to any entirely new level? Would legends such as Babe Ruth and Pele enjoy such a reputation if it was discovered that their ability was due to chemical enhancements? The fact of the matter is that we will never know.

It is also nearly impossible to tell who may currently be taking these substances, as differentiating pure ability from artificial enhancements represents a rather grey area. Still, we can remain confident in the fact that all major football organisations are doing everything in their power to curtail such behaviours.

Author: Aleksandra Krivaite

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