Ban Drug Cheat Footballers For Life

If there is any player, in any team in the English football pyramid that has or is using performance enhancing drugs, they should be banned for life from the game and their clubs should be docked points immediately whether they knew or not.

Worrying Questions
Footballers have been accused of all sorts over the years, I know, because I’m one of them, and sometimes my off field behaviour let my sport down.

But off field indiscretions fall at the door of an individual who can be moved on from a club, whereas an individual taking drugs to enhance performance casts a shadow over every club in the land, and we only have to look at the whispers around Italian and Spanish football to know that even smoke without fire raises some worrying questions.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t care about drug taking in athletics or cycling, I’ve long gone past caring about either sport, and while the nation was preening and back patting over the 2012 Olympics, I remember getting slated as a spoilsport for suggesting what people were seeing wasn’t necessarily real.

Football is special, it’s a sport of variables, of skills, where the chunky Gazza can compete with the athlete Bryan Robson on a level playing field and win. With the Premier League being the most watched and having the most money in the global game though,

…with athleticism overtaking skill, I’m genuinely worried, really worried in fact that an impressionable player may see PEDs as a quick route to success and untold wealth.

Indeed, when I voiced my concerns on Twitter, people called me naive for suggesting that the sport is clean, so if I’m so wrong, why aren’t we doing everything aggressively to make sure this cancer doesn’t take a foothold in our sport?

Sharapova’s recent revelations, where she admitted to taking a perfectly legal drug for “angina” for 10 years, despite the makers’ suggestions it should only be used for 6 months, demonstrates what athletes will do to take the advantage, and in the process make us all distrust the sport.

Maybe I am naive in thinking football with its glamour and wealth should be immune to the cheating that is so routine in other sports but in 15 years of playing, I can hand on heart say I was never offered, nor ever heard of any player who took PED’s.

Indeed the only time I was offered anything was at St James’ Park for Nottingham Forest in 1994 when the fitness coach Pete Edwards, a great and very well respected sports coach, gave me a can of a new drink on the market, Red Bull.

He said it would have the same effect as a double espresso (which I still drink pre-run), and I had an absolute nightmare of a game. Jittery, nervous, it was the opposite of performance enhancing!

I do wonder what I’d have done if a coach would have come to me aged 16, said I had talent, but hey “try this and I’ll make you a superstar”. I’d like to think I’d have told him or her to f*** off, but in a competitive industry where even the slightest edge can make you a champion or a record holder, it must be tempting for some, so we need some understanding of the culture which provides no safety blanket for young sportsmen and women.

Many fans don’t care if they are honest, if their team wins they’d be happy for their superstars to cheat, but if we truly love the game then we need to look at the deaths, the heart attacks, the rotten arteries after drug abuse and the misery, not glory that brings and as they used to say on Grange Hill, just say no!

I didn’t win anything bar promotion to the Premier League with Nottingham Forest. I played in an FA Cup Final, a European semi-final and quarter-final, and several title run ins with several clubs, and I wouldn’t have swapped any of those for wins if it meant doping.

Why? Because what we watch and trust on our screens is based on a bond between sport and watcher, that of absolute trust and belief that you are watching is honest. If anyone in English football is doping, we must throw the book at them, we must implement robust urine, hair and blood profiling in the game, (it’s rich enough to cover whatever the cost, and what price for a clean game?), and do it quickly.

We must not let football be dragged through the mud like other sports,

…all of which are struggling to be respected when revelation after revelation comes out on an almost weekly basis.

My manifesto would be…
1. Weekly hair sample tests at clubs
2. Drug testing for clubs under the auspices of FA to be written into contracts.
3. At least 6 players on each team tested in every Premier League game
4. Premier League broadcasting money to trickle down to lower league to be able to do robust testing.
5. Lifetime bans for players found doping
6. FA/PFA educational programme from academy level onwards to warn of the dangers.

It may cost a few quid but I’m sure you’ll agree a small price to pay for the integrity of the world’s greatest sport. A fight we have to win.