Since March, a team of Fifa doctors and nurses have been carrying out random blood and urine tests at internationals and team training camps.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina and France were visited last week at their camps to prepare for the tournament, according to media reports. Brazilian star Neymar, Italian captain Gianluigi Buffon and Spain’s Andres Iniesta were among those who gave samples at last year’s Confederations Cup.
Players can expect a tap on the shoulder right from the first matches of the World Cup which starts June 12.
“We can test anybody, anytime, anywhere, any amount of times,” said Jiri Dvorak, Fifa’s chief medical officer in a recent interview. So far nothing alarming has turned up, according to Dvorak.
“The hematological parameters are normal,” he said. Fifa is building up a biological passport on all players.
So far teams have made the doping investigators welcome. “They understand what we are doing and they consider that kind of examination as part of their professional life,” said Dvorak. The Fifa tests look for discrepancies in haemoglobins and red cells that could indicate EPO doping or other banned efforts to boost endurance. These kinds of tests are already used in cycling and athletics. Football’s governing body also checks hormone levels and for anabolic steroids in the urine. The drug testing logistics in Brazil face difficulties, Dvorak acknowledged. There is no international standard laboratory in Brazil.
Fifa will be sending its samples to a laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, which will add $250,000 (180,000 euros) to the doping clampdown costs. And as blood samples must be analysed within 36 hours of being drawn, it will be a race against time to get samples from far-flung World Cup cities such as Manaus in the Amazon and Fortaleza.
The Lausanne laboratory will work 24 hours a day during the World Cup, he added. “Some of the matches are critical, the critical matches we will look at very carefully,” the medical chief said.