Thursday 14 December 2017

English FA covered up 13 failed drugs tests before Saido Berahino ban was revealed

Saido Berahino moved from West Brom to Stoke in January
Saido Berahino moved from West Brom to Stoke in January

Jack de Menezes

The Football Association has kept 13 failed drugs tests quiet since 2012 in the latest revelations to cast scrutiny on the way the governing body handles the use of recreational drugs in the sport.

The Daily Mail revealed last week that new Stoke City signing Saido Berahino served an eight-week suspension imposed by the FA after reportedly testing positive for the ecstasy-based drug MDMA while playing for West Bromwich Albion.

The positive test was kept quiet by all parties involved, with the FA arguing that keeping matters private was important for helping the players to recover, but the Daily Mail has now released a fresh report that 13 footballers tested positive for recreational drugs in the period between July 2012 and June 2016, before Berahino’s failed test.

While the number of positive cases discovered in out-of-competition testing is a very small number of the total number of tests carried out – working out to 0.17 per cent – it will still cause alarm among fans that other reasons are being given for players who serve bans.

West Brom manager maintains that his original decision to drop Berahino from his first-team squad was due to fitness reasons, but fans did not know that part of his three-month absence was also due to an eight-week suspension.

While the FA face criticism for covering up the use of recreational drugs, they are one of few governing bodies who test for them outside of competition. The report adds that the FA hope to complete as many as 5,000 tests-a-season by 2018, with the number of tests carried out by UK Anti-Doping testers last season registered at 2,442.

While there have been 13 positive tests, it is not thought to involve as many as 13 other players, given that former Sheffield United striker Jose Baxter is alleged to have failed to drugs tests, with the 24-year-old currently serving a 12-month ban that expires in June this year.

Former Wolves goalkeeper Aaron McCarey also failed a drugs test after the club confirmed a positive sample in May 2015, with the 25-year-old since moving to Ross County in Scotland. The rest of the identities remain unknown.

The reason why recreational drugs are not being dealt with in the same fashion as doping offences – which tend to bring a two-year ban for positive tests – is that UK Anti-Doping are hoping to educate and rehabilitate players rather than punish them for out-of-competition transgressions.

Speaking after it was revealed that two Premiership rugby players tested positive last season for recreational drugs, UK Sport’s former anti-doping chief, Michele Verroken, said: “Football, rugby and cricket are focusing on the illicit recreational drugs outside of competition and then applying misconduct penalties because it's not really a doping offence.

“They want players to come forward and seek help, go through clinical assessment and rehabilitation.”

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