Referees ‘should undergo tests for performance-enhancing drugs’

REFEREES in Scotland face being drug-tested in the same manner as players.

REFEREES in Scotland face being drug-tested in the same manner as players.

Medical experts from world football’s governing body, Fifa, want whistlers tested for performance-enhancing substances and placed under the same scrutiny as the players.

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Top-class and international match officials are already subject to stringent fitness tests and, while there is no indication drugs are an issue, delegates at Fifa’s medical congress were told yesterday that referees could come under the same kind of doping scrutiny as players.

Jiri Dvorak, Fifa’s chief medical officer, told delegates on the second day of the conference in Budapest: “We have to consider referees as part of the game.

“We have started to discuss this and this is something for the future which will be discussed to include possibly an anti-doping programme for referees.

“We do not have an indication that this is a problem, but this is something we have to look at. The referees are a neglected population.”

Michel D’Hooghe, the long-standing chairman of Fifa’s medical committee, said: “The referee is an athlete on the field, so I think he should be subjected to the same rules.”

A spokesman for the Scottish FA said: “We already have a rigorous anti-doping policy in place and will happily look at any recommendations put forward by Fifa.”

Howard Webb, the Englishman who refereed the 2010 World Cup final, said any measure to show football was free of drugs was fine by referees.

“I don’t think it’s an issue for any of us because we are not in competition as such,” he said. “If it is something Fifa want to do, we are fine with that.”

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Webb added: “If it shows that everyone involved in the game is absolutely clean, that is how it should be.”

However, one Scottish referee, who did not wish to be named, said: “This seems a bit over the top, but no referee I know would object, as we have nothing to hide. I don’t see how refs would need to take drugs to enhance their performance, but if the top brass want it, we really can’t object. I suppose it only seems fair to be on the same playing field as players.”

The issue got mixed responses on online message boards.

One poster said: “Maybe they should make referees have compulsory eye tests rather than drug tests.”

Another said: “Is there any point in this, because they are not competing like footballers are.”

One, called Maestro, said: “Maybe explain some of their decisions if they are on drugs.”

Some calling themselves Redruthyalla posted: A Bung for managers and a Bong for referees?”

One referee said: “Some people might think it is bringing everyone in the sport altogether in one, but referees are not the ones who are competing for a prize, like the players. In some respects, if the players have to be under the rules and regulations, then why not refs.”

David Howman, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s director general, told the conference rules might change to allow players from team sports who are banned for doping offences to return earlier to training, though not playing.

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He said: “We are looking for ideas on how reductions and early return to training can be done.”

Mr D’Hooghe said players in team sports were hit harder by drugs bans than individual athletes, such as runners, who were still able to train and return fit to competition when their bans ended.