EPO problems in football?

Although endurance sports get most of the attention on the use of blood-boosting products, Arsenal b

Although endurance sports get most of the attention on the use of blood-boosting products, Arsenal b
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE It seems that cycling and other endurance sports are not the only ones troubled by the presence of EPO, if comments made last week by Arsenal team manager Arsne Wenger are anything to go by. The Frenchman, who coaches England's leading football side, admitted he had seen indications of apparent EPO use in players he had signed from teams abroad. "We have had some players come to us and their red blood cell count has been abnormally high. That kind of thing makes you wonder," said Wenger at a conference of football's role in European integration held in Brussels. "There are clubs who dope their players without the players knowing. The club might say that they are being injected with vitamins and the player would not know that it was something different." At the moment the Football Association, which oversees the game in England, does not conduct tests for EPO use, but told the Guardian "it will be conducting 1,600 tests in the course of this season." However, an ongoing case in Italy suggests that EPO use was taking place in the upper echelons of professional football as long as a decade ago. In a case not dissimilar to the recent proceedings involving renowned cycle training consultant Michele Ferrari, a director and a doctor at Italy's most successful club, Juventus, stand accused of sporting fraud for provision of doping products to the team's players between July 1994 and September 1998. Former Juventus striker Gianluca Vialli has already admitted the club doctor regularly administered substances for which there was no justification. Among the other players alleged to have been doped without their knowledge is two-time world player of the year Zinedine Zidane, who was called to give evidence in the case.

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