Quiz helps get anti-doping message to Women’s U17s

Wednesday may have been a rest day at the UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship but come the evening a winner still emerged from among the eight teams in Iceland.

However, it was a single player that tasted victory, and it was off the field rather than on it, as Katja Friedl from Germany won the anti-doping quiz that all squad members had been encouraged to try at the team hotel in Reykjavik.

The prize for midfielder Friedl was an iPad mini but the wider purpose of the quiz was to reiterate the message already given to the squads during their own separate anti-doping sessions spread out between matchdays one and two. The multiple-choice quiz comprised ten randomly selected questions from a possible 50, ranging from “Doping is a) cheating b) dangerous for your health c) the only way to improve your performance d) not being fair toward other competitors” to “If a player buys food supplements from the chemist’s, he/she can be sure that it will not contain any prohibited substance. a) True b) False” – correct answers underlined – with much else in between.

As well as being a bit of fun, the questions covered the main points spelled out by Caroline Thom from UEFA’s anti-doping unit during her half-hour presentations to the players. Thom, the European governing body’s medical and anti-doping project manager, made clear UEFA’s stance against doping, emphasising that it is about respect and ensuring a level playing field in order to protect both the image of the game and the players’ health.

The rules and prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) were also explained, along with the principle of strict liability: that the player is always responsible.

The WU17 players were then briefed on the mechanics of anti-doping, particularly the testing process, and advised about their own personal responsibilities as athletes. Indeed, Thom stressed the risks involved in taking both common medicines and nutritional supplements, both of which can contain prohibited ingredients. To underscore the severity of the situation, she cited high-profile examples of players banned after testing positive for prohibited substances from over-the-counter cough medicine, their wife’s diet pills or a nutritional supplement.

“You just need to know there are a certain amount of substances you can’t take when you are ill. Check with your doctor, even with UEFA or the website globaldro.com,” she said, adding: “You can never be 100% sure about food supplements.”

With all recreational drugs prohibited, Thom proceeded to tell the girls that “cannabis can stay in your body for two months”, then illustrated the side-effects of steroid abuse and highlighted how the consequences of doping can impact on a player’s career, reputation and even their team’s results.

The session also featured an information video filmed at UEFA EURO 2012 which talked the teenagers through the entire doping control procedure. “Two players were tested from each team and all tests returned negative results,” was the good news from that event.

UEFA’s investment of time and resources into anti-doping applies to education as well as controls, with Europe’s elite men’s players also due to hear this message at UEFA EURO 2016 next summer. So Thom reminded her gifted audience that “you are here today because you are talented, skilful, clever, disciplined – these are the skills that will get you to the top”.

That the girls were visibly engaged by the subject was clear from the questions they asked after each presentation, including “Are players allowed back into the dressing room before a doping control?” Katja Friedl from Germany could have answered that one, of course: No.