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Results of the anti-doping testing programme for the 2018 FIFA World Cup!

The 2018 FIFA World Cup draws to a close, FIFA yesterday announced that so far, the analyses of all doping tests conducted before and during the competition have yielded negative results.

The testing programme in place this year was the largest ever conducted for a FIFA World Cup. Once all of the qualified teams for the final competition were known, FIFA developed a test distribution plan (TDP) based on an analysis of doping risks for football. The TDP was shared and agreed with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and consisted of a dynamic, intelligence-based testing programme.

FIFA established a preliminary testing pool of more than 1,500 players who were potential participants at the FIFA World Cup in Russia. In addition to the tests directly conducted by FIFA, each national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) and the respective confederations were contacted to seek their assistance in testing the athletes in the lead-up to the tournament. This close cooperation with other testing agencies allowed a significant increase in the number of tests on participating players.

The regular tests were complemented by FIFA’s use of the athlete biological passport programme in WADA’s “ADAMS” system, under which all test results, including those from confederations and NADOs collected at the main international football events as well as national competitions, are gathered in the athlete’s passport in ADAMS, which features a haematological module (through blood) and a steroidal module (through urine). FIFA’s Athlete Passport Management Unit, composed of independent experts, reviews the data of players to detect potential deviations that may indicate an abuse of performance-enhancing drugs. This applied to all participating players at the FIFA World Cup.

For the 2018 FIFA World Cup, every participating player was tested in unannounced controls before the competition and further systematic tests have been performed during it, both with post-match controls and on non-matchdays. With the aim of ensuring the most meaningful and intelligence-based programme, 90% of all tests were targeted. This targeting was based on a number of criteria, including the recommendations of the Athlete Passport Management Unit, potential injuries suffered by the players, performance data and the athletes’ test history.

The breakdown of test figures in the lead-up to and during the World Cup is as follows:

– Since January 2018, a total of 2,037 tests have been conducted by FIFA, NADOs and confederations
– This produced 3,985 samples (1,928 urine, 1,031 whole blood, 1,026 serum)
– 2,761 samples were collected directly by FIFA in unannounced controls prior to the competition and 626 during it (including 108 collected on non-matchdays)
– On average, every player from the four remaining teams has been tested 4.41 times since January, with some of them tested 8 times
– Adverse analytical findings: 1 (the player was in possession of a therapeutic use exemption for the substance detected)
– Atypical findings* that were not determined as adverse analytical findings: 3
– Therapeutic use exemptions: 2

All samples collected were analysed at WADA-accredited laboratories, with most of the analyses – particularly of all of the samples collected during the competition – carried out at the laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland. To ensure a tamper-proof operation, FIFA transported all the samples in a secure box of a type that is normally used by banks to transport money and can only be opened with an electronic key.

In terms of the substances analysed, beyond the routine screening procedures for prohibited substances, FIFA has set the bar significantly higher than the requirements of WADA’s Technical Document For Sport Specific Analysis**, for instance by testing 100% of the respective samples for growth hormones (GHs) and “small peptides” (GHRFs).

All samples collected will be stored for ten years and be available for potential future retesting.

* An atypical finding is a report from a WADA-accredited laboratory that requires further investigation by the FIFA Anti-Doping Unit prior to the determination of an adverse analytical finding. After the investigation has been completed, the player, his club, the association concerned and WADA will be notified as to whether or not the atypical finding will be brought forward as an adverse analytical finding.

** The WADA Technical Document for Sport Specific Analysis requires 10% GHs and 10% of GHRFs as minimum levels of analysis for football.

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