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Football not doing enough to deter drug cheats, says Toni Minichiello

(UDHAYAM, MANCHESTER) – Football is not doing enough to deter potential drug cheats, says Toni Minichiello, former coach of Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Manchester City were charged last week for failing to ensure anti-doping officials knew where players were for testing.

The Premier League club face a potential fine, but Minichiello feels punishments should be harsher.

“Football isn’t testing to the same level as athletics,” he said.

In response to Minichiello’s comments, the Football Association said it operates “one of the most comprehensive national anti-doping testing programmes in the world”, adding that 3,200 tests will have been completed by the end of the current season.

Testing is carried out across first teams, reserve teams, under-21 teams and youth teams for Premier League and Football League clubs as well as Women’s Super League 1 and 2 teams.

Players who miss a test receive a “strike”. Three strikes in a rolling 12-month period result in a disciplinary charge and a possible two-year ban.

However, Minichiello does not believe individuals are being tested often enough for that to be an effective deterrent.

“Let’s say a club have 30 players, that is only about two players a month being tested,” he added.

“The testing programme doesn’t go on for 12 months according to the Football Association, so it would take you more than a year to test everybody at least once at the club.

“Jessica Ennis-Hill was tested between 12 and 15 times a year. And that’s a combination of whereabouts, in-competition and out of competition testing.”

Minichiello suggested that footballers need to be monitored more closely in the months after a season ends and before a new one starts.

They can still be tested at any point during this time, but clubs only need to provide residency information for their players.

“In athletics, you always have to be available, even in the off-season, for that one hour a day,” added Minichiello. “If you go on holiday, you have to put down the address of the hotel.

“For football to be able to just give [a player’s] residential address – yet they could spend two months abroad somewhere – seems unusual to me, and ought to be something that actually the FA tighten up on.”

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