More and more professional football players in the U.K. are failing doping tests after taking dietary supplements without their club’s knowledge, a spokesman for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) said, calling the issue a “big problem.”
“The clubs are very well aware of the problem and they need to be extremely careful,” said Emilio Garcia, managing director of integrity for UEFA. “The cases are difficult because most likely it was a mistake by a player, and from a human perspective it is difficult to deal with these cases.”
Many dietary supplements sold online or in retail stores in both Europe and the U.S. contain undeclared ingredients including steroids, which are banned by professional sporting groups. Professional athletes who use these supplements can unknowingly test positive for substances that ban them from play.
For example, Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Arijan Ademi failed a doping test after the Champions League win in Arsenal in 2015, which he blamed on a dietary supplement. Ademi was banned from play for four years, which was later cut in half.
Being unaware of ingredients in dietary supplements – even if supplement makers fail to disclose all the ingredients in the product – is not an excuse with many of these leagues. “As a club we educate the players and tell them to avoid supplements,” said Manchester City club doctor Matthew Brown. “It’s for the best of their careers that they avoid supplements, but the problem is policing that.”