FA unhappy over UKAD doping stance as Arsene Wenger vows British game is clean
The Football Association has criticised the head of UK Anti-Doping for querying whether the game may have a hidden performance-enhancing drugs problem.
Nicole Sapstead, chief executive of UKAD, said something "doesn't feel right" about football and stated she would seek talks with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger - a long-time advocate of tackling doping.
Wenger said in November he believes football has a doping problem after athletics was rocked by drugs scandals, although he is confident the British game is clean.
The Frenchman also claimed that European football's governing body UEFA ''basically accepts doping'' after Arijan Ademi was banned for four years having failed a drugs test during Dinamo Zagreb's Champions League victory over the Gunners, a result which to Wenger's frustration was allowed to stand.
Wenger says he will gladly meet to discuss the issue and his insights with Sapstead.
The long-serving Arsenal boss said: ''I have more desire than time, but I'm more than happy to help if I can in clarifying things for people who want to fight against doping.
''I've said what I have to say. In football, in our job, we look like we want to tackle the problem now. For a long period it looks to me like we didn't.
''I am available. We have to tackle doping and fight against it, you and me. I am not thinking I can do more than people responsible to do that, but if they need to talk to me I'm available. What is important is we all have to show we don't accept it.''
But it was Sapstead's wider comments on possible doping in football which were described as "unhelpful" and "misleading" by the FA's director of football governance and administration, Darren Bailey.
Speaking in London on Wednesday, Sapstead expressed her worry about football and other sports, despite there being no obvious problem in terms of positive tests in the game.
She said: "I think it's foolish for any sport to think that they're immune from doping, I really do. Statistically, worldwide, football per se does not have a doping problem.
"Football, tennis, other sports. It's just, something doesn't feel right. If you were an outsider looking in, you would go, 'This doesn't feel right'.
"Football is a rich sport and they have fantastic infrastructures behind them and their clubs. You've got a sport that commands huge salaries - players command huge salaries - there's huge television rights."
Bailey responded in a statement on the FA website which highlighted the measures to which the organisation goes to prevent doping - and questioned why Sapstead had brought into question such a sensitive issue.
"We discussed this matter with Mr Wenger some weeks ago when the comments were made and both agree this is an extremely important subject," Bailey said.
"However, just as UK Anti-Doping confirmed yesterday (on Wednesday), the FA has no current information to suggest the public cannot trust in the measures we have in place nor should anyone think English football would ever get complacent to the risks of doping.
"We are happy to speak with any manager or player who wishes to discuss with us any issues or concerns relating to anti-doping.
"What is unhelpful, however, for all concerned, are speculative comments without any evidential basis of the nature made by UKAD yesterday. Such comments create a misleading impression and I will be taking this up with UKAD at the highest level.
"The integrity of our game at all levels is of paramount importance which is why we are committed to ensuring it is maintained."
Bailey went on to clarify just what lengths the FA goes to - and how there has been no suggestion of doping in the English game.
He said: "No other national governing body in the UK dedicates as much resource to prevent doping in its sport and the FA operates one of the most comprehensive national anti-doping testing programmes in the world. We conducted 2,286 tests in season 2014-15.
"Drug testing is conducted both in and out of competition on a no-notice basis including at players' home addresses. The testing programme is intelligence-based and targeted. In addition, the FA runs both a blood profiling and a urine steroid profiling programme.
"All samples are analysed by UKAD and the FA works closely with them to share all relevant information and maintain full transparency.
"There have been exceptionally few unusual results in English football and none which have so far suggested a doping issue.
"The FA has a comprehensive education programme which includes online modules, player essential guides, presentations and workshops, posters and wallet-sized prohibited lists."
Wenger, too, is convinced there is no doping problem in the British game, adding: " I'm sure that not one club in England is trying to dope its players. I'm 100 per cent convinced that nobody in England is trying to do that."