FIFA’s War on Drugs

The integrity of football relies not just on the skill and dedication of its players but also on the fairness and equality that underpins the sport. To protect these values, FIFA has instituted a stringent anti-doping program designed to prevent the use of prohibited substances and methods that could unfairly enhance performance or harm player health. This program is aligned with the standards set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), ensuring comprehensive in and out-of-competition testing. Players are subject to testing at any time and place, and refusal to comply is treated as a doping violation. This article explores FIFA’s ongoing war on drugs, examining the procedures, regulations, and real-world implications of its anti-doping efforts.

Doping is when players take prohibited substances or use banned methods to improve
their performance.

To safeguard fair play, FIFA has a robust anti-doping program that is aligned with the
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Players undergo in and out-of-competition testing.
They can be tested anytime, anywhere, not just during matches. Refusing a test is
considered a doping violation.

Prohibited List
WADA regularly updates its list of substances and methods that are prohibited because
they enhance performance, damage a player’s health or go against the spirit of sport.
Whether it is steroids, cocaine or amphetamines, any substance that is mentioned on
WADA’s Prohibited List should be off-limits for players and their support staff. The
Prohibited List identifies such substances and indicates if they are prohibited in or out of

Even “natural” supplements can contain prohibited substances, which – if detected in a
doping control – may result in the same sanctions as if they had been taken in any other

Therefore, it is essential to always check the ingredients of any supplements before
taking them. Players should also be encouraged to critically consider every medication
or treatment prescribed for them, whether by the team doctor or any other physician.
Ultimately, it is the player’s responsibility to ensure that their body does not come into
contact with any prohibited substance or method.

In order to make sure football stays clean, random doping controls are conducted.
This means testing players’ blood and urine to avoid using prohibited substances or

FIFA’s Anti-Doping Unit manages the anti-doping programme for all FIFA competitions
and can ask players to take part in doping control at any time.


Suppose a player is under 18 years old. In that case, they should be notified in the
presence of an adult and have the right to be accompanied by a representative
throughout the sample collection session.

Real-World Consequences: From Glory to Ban
Doping violations come with severe consequences. Remember the case of Marco Reus
in 2014? He received a two-month ban for unknowingly using a contaminated vitamin
supplement. This highlights the importance of players being extra cautious about what
they consume. Other players haven’t been so lucky.

You can be selected in one of two ways: by a random draw or targeted testing.
In a random draw, the doping control officer picks out players randomly, usually at half-
time in the control room. To ensure the draw is done fairly and adequately, a
representative of each team is called to witness the process.
With targeted testing, you or your team are chosen for doping control for a specific
reason determined by the testing authority, such as FIFA, your confederation or the
anti-doping organisation in the country where you are competing.

Doping controls can occur either “in competition” – immediately after the final whistle of
a match – or “out of competition” – at any time of day and in any location.

Doping controls take as long as they need to, so it depends on how quickly FIFA can
get the samples they need. What is important is to stay relaxed, and everything will flow

There is no limit to the number of times a player can be tested each year, whether in
competition, out of competition, or by random or targeted testing.

If a player fails to submit a sample or refuses, evades or tampers with any part of
doping control, it counts as an anti-doping rule violation and can result in them being
banned for up to four years.

After the doping control, the player’s sample will be sent to a WADA-accredited
laboratory for analysis


FIFA’s unwavering stance against doping is a testament to its dedication to preserving the sanctity of football. By enforcing rigorous testing protocols and aligning with WADA’s ever-evolving Prohibited List, FIFA ensures that the sport remains a true test of talent, dedication, and fair play. The cases of players who have faced sanctions underscore the critical importance of vigilance and responsibility, not only for athletes but for their support teams as well. As the football community continues to navigate the challenges of maintaining a level playing field, FIFA’s anti-doping efforts serve as a vital safeguard, protecting both the health of players and the integrity of the game. Through ongoing education, stringent enforcement, and a commitment to transparency, FIFA’s war on drugs remains a pivotal aspect of its mission to uphold the highest standards of sport.

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