Arsene Wenger says the rules need to change if football is to avoid doping cheats.
Speaking exclusively to beIN SPORTS, the Arsenal manager claimed he had seen some "strange" things during his time in football and says he is not satisfied with the current level of testing.
Are you satisfied with the level of testing by authorities?
“No, I’m not. I’m not satisfied with the level of testing because I believe blood tests should be done. If you want to go into a bit more sophistication you have to do blood checks. Urine checks are superficial and not deep enough to say absolutely sure that we have no doping problem in football. I think no and I wish no but on the other hand, can you have 740 football players at a World Cup and come out with zero alert on any doping? It’s a little bit surprising. I hope it is true but I think to be completely sure about it, you want to go into deeper tests.”
Have you witnessed any doping personally? Do you have any evidence?
“Personally, no. I recently made statements that I never doped or try to dope anybody in my career and it helps me to sleep much better than if I had done it. Did I witness some strange things during my career? I say, without any doubt, yes. There’s always a big difference between having suspicions and proving it and that’s why I’m not in a position where I can make a statement, ‘I’m sure that he doped.’ You have heard about things, I have heard about things, even players say (it), but what you want is that the control is better than it is done today. For example, now you have three doping tests after the game. If one of the players is doped, the result of the game is not changed. You need two to be doped to have a result of the game changed but if you test only three, it is nearly impossible that you catch a second one. Out of 18, it means you test as well the players who have not played, so you can say there is something in there that is not completely logical and maybe we have to do more. I hope it is not a deep problem and I don’t think it is one. I don’t think in England, in the Premier League, I don’t see any signs of doping at all.”
The Champions League game against Dinamo Zagreb was one instance when you were directly affected by this situation. Are you satisfied with UEFA’s handling of the situation?
“Look, UEFA’s handling of the situation is according to the rules. I’m not unhappy with the handling of the situation by UEFA. I am more questioning the rules that exist and are maybe not good enough. “
Do you feel Arsenal were more punished than Zagreb?
“Yes of course. That’s where we come back to the rules and the efficiency of the rules that exist at the moment.”
What deterrents can you put in place to prevent doping?
“Look, you have to come to the facts. There are two reasons why a player is doped. First, on personal initiative. That means he hides to his club that he doped because he’s scared to lose his place, because he wants to impress, because he has an individual or personal reason to enhance his performance or it is organized by the club to dope some players and enhance the performances because they are not ready or not good enough or because they have a special competition. In most cases, I think, you have to make the player feel responsible for the club as well. That means, he cannot be only punished if he’s guilty of having doped because it’s too difficult to prove that it’s a club initiative or a personal initiative so the clubs have to be responsible for the doping of the players individually as well and tell them before the season starts, ‘Look, for any doping control, your contract is completely finished because the club suffers the consequences.’”
Do you have a system in place at Arsenal to test your own players?
“No because we are tested by the federation who sends people to our training grounds but of course we inform the players before the season starts about all the dangers of doping and doping controls that they have to satisfy just to follow our instructions.”
Creatine is considered a performance enhancing product in some places but it’s not a banned substance. Do you have an opinion on that?
“Yes, I believe first of all it’s the competition that you’re in that creates the rules. UEFA has its rules, England has its rules. Most of the time, the federation inside the big confederation accepts the rules of the confederation and in England I think we have the same rules as UEFA. Considering creatine, I don’t believe it’s an enhanced drug for football players because I think it’s more damageable than useful because it just produces huge muscles but apart from that it’s not very interesting. Football is more about mobility, speed of movement, quality of coordination so I don’t think it’s of any use.”
What would be the consequences for football if there was a major drug story?
“Very minimal because the history tells you that exceptional cases, exceptional history, is always a big story at the moment but deeply doesn’t change the attendance of the next game and the popularity of our game. It would be very bad for a while but I speak more of justice. You do not want teams to cheat to win and you want the best team to win without cheating. That’s more for me and for people that are committed in sport. They want to be as good as they can be and if they are the best, you want them to be the best. I don’t think that the popularity of the game would suffer as much as if you had arranged games for example but you don’t want it to happen because it’s damageable for the health of people. You have some sports where we have seen, like in the States, in baseball or in American football, people dying early just for playing this kind of sport.”
Do the recent events in Russia make you worry about certain countries’ approach to sport?
“Yes of course. Considering Russia, we don’t know the truth yet so we have to be a bit patient before we accuse. Was it organized or was it, as I said before, personal initiative? That is a massive difference for me. If it is organized on a huge scale, it’s of course unbelievable. Let’s wait to see what comes out there and let’s see if other countries are involved as well. We don’t know all the truth about that now and I don’t know well enough athletics, track and field, to make any statement about that. We all came to sport because we love to play and, on top of that, it’s healthy so you do not want the competition to go against one of its basics. On top of that, I don’t know in track and field but I don’t think in football it helps.”