Doping news in sport other than cycling shocker: footballer Kolo Toure fails drug test
"Specified substance" definition may give Man City player grounds for innocent ingestion defence
Manchester City Football Club, whose Eastlands stadium is just across the road from the Manchester Velodrome, has announced that it has suspended defender Kolo Toure after the Ivorian tested positive for a “specified substance.”
In a statement published on its website this evening, the club, currently in third place in the Barclays Premier League, said: “Manchester City confirm that the FA has informed Kolo Toure that an ‘A-sample’ provided by him has tested positive for a specified substance.
“As result of this, he has been suspended from participating in all first team and non-first team matches pending the outcome of the legal process.
“There will be no further comment from the football club at this stage,” the statement concluded.
Many cycling fans on the social media site Twitter were quick to seize on the news as potential evidence that football, too, has a doping problem, something hinted at in the past by Dr Eufemanio Fuentes, who during the Operacion Puerto investigation threatened to reveal details of major Spanish football clubs he had worked with.
Indeed, whenever news of a failed drugs scandal breaks within cycling, it’s not long before some rider unconnected to it will opine that cycling is after all the most tested – and therefore the cleanest – sport, and that others do not have as rigorous a testing regime in place, with football often mentioned.
That may be true, and in 2001, a number of Italy-based players including Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids, then of Juventus, received bans for using nandrolone, but what appears clear from the wording of Manchester City’s statement and its reference to a “specified substance” is that we’re not dealing here with a case of EPO, artificial testosterone or – given the cliché of steak being the typical footballer’s favourite meal – clenbuterol.
On the list of Prohibited Substances published by WADA, the World-anti Doping Agency, those three substances are categorised as either anabolic agent (testosterone) or hormone (EPO and clenbuterol).
However, in an article on its website explaining changes made to the World Anti-Doping Code with effect from 1 January 2009, WADA says: “The 2009 Code now provides that all prohibited substances, except substances in the classes of anabolic agents and hormones and those stimulants so identified on the Prohibited List, shall be “specified substances” for the purposes of sanctions.”
WADA continues: “This means that where an athlete can establish how a specified substance entered his/her body or came into his/her possession and that such specified substance was not intended to enhance sport performance, the sanction may be reduced to a reprimand and no period of ineligibility at a minimum, and a 2-year ban at a maximum.
“It is important to note that the newly defined specified substances are not necessarily less serious agents for purposes of sports doping than other prohibited substances (for example, a stimulant that is listed as a specified substance could be effective to an athlete in competition).
“For that reason, an athlete who does not meet the reduction criteria could receive up to a 4-year period of ineligibility in case of aggravating circumstances. However, there is a greater likelihood that specified substances, as opposed to other prohibited substances, could be susceptible to a credible, non-doping explanation.”
That final sentence means that in Toure’s case, although clearly the full facts are not yet to hand, we may well be dealing with a substance for which an athlete would find it much easier to mount a defence of innocent ingestion than, for instance, Alberto Contador successfully did following his failed test for clenbuterol, which as mentioned above is not classified as a “specified substance.”
After a decade playing at the top level of English and European football with first Arsenal and now Manchester City, it is likely that Toure can afford lawyers of a similar calibre as those engaged by the three-time Tour de France champion.