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Many sporting organisations and authorities are interpreting the whereabouts rule completely wrongly, declared David Howman, director-general of the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA, during the FIFPro congress in Kuala Lumpur. Professional footballers have little to fear from the rule, he said.

 

Upon the request of FIFPro, Howman gave an in-depth presentation on WADA and the Global Anti-Doping Program. During the presentation, he clarified amongst other things the much-criticised whereabouts rule which obliges athletes to make themselves available one hour per day for a possible doping test. The athletes must indicate in advance via a computer system where they will be each day at a particular time.

 

The rule is still disputed and according to Howman this is primarily the result of ‘communication problems’. He explained that the whereabouts rule is only intended for athletes which belong to special categories since it is apparent that they belong to the highest risk groups:

  • athletes around whom there are suspicious circumstances on the basis of specific indications or events;
  • athletes who are just returning from an injury.

 

‘Most players don’t have to give whereabouts’, said Howman. According to him, it is not the intention to subject large groups of athletes to whereabouts. ‘Only players who are registered in the so-called testing pool’. Howman said that there are hardly any footballers in that pool.

 

This still does not take away from the fact that footballers and other athletes - even those without whereabouts obligations - can still be tested out of competition. However, if they are not found by controllers, there is no problem.

 

Howman’s comments will have consequences for French football for example, where all the captains in the professional leagues are currently instructed to comply with whereabouts. This rule cannot be maintained since there are no specific suspicions against (all) captains.

 

Howman’s remarks will also have an effect in Belgium where practically all top athletes have been placed in an elite pool, as a result of which they have to comply with the whereabouts rules. It concerns around 350 professional footballers and more than 700 athletes in total.‘That’s crazy’, was Howman’s reaction in Kuala Lumpur. ‘That has to be sorted out. Belgium is going further in its practical implementation of the WADA code than we had ever intended.’

 

In the meantime, the Flemish minister of sport, Phillippe Muyters, has taken the criticism from WADA onboard. He is currently working on a review of the doping decree.