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Posted: Thursday October 29, 2009 9:58AM; Updated: Thursday October 29, 2009 9:58AM

FIFA, WADA to create new anti-doping program

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ZURICH (AP) -- FIFA and the World Anti-Doping Agency have agreed to work together on a new anti-doping program to test top-level football players.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and WADA president John Fahey met Thursday at FIFA headquarters to finalize the agreement.

"We are working together, fighting against doping and trying to put all our assets together," Blatter said after the meeting.

Fahey praised FIFA for its "robust and extensive" testing program, but said there was room for improvement.

The new project will be modeled on the International Cycling Union's biological passport program, which monitors 850 professional riders.

"We think this is exciting," Fahey said of the partnership with FIFA. "If it brings the results that many scientists believe it can, it will ultimately help all sports. We also know it will take some considerable time."

The two organizations will work with WADA-accredited laboratories to design a research project that could start next year.

FIFA has been consulting with the lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, which operates the cycling program.

Athletes give regular samples of blood and urine to create individual body chemistry profiles that allow scientists to see evidence of doping, rather than search for banned substances.

Football conducts 33,000 doping controls annually, half of them in Europe, with 0.3 percent testing positive. One in 10 of the failed tests are for anabolic agents such as steroids, with most of the remainder involving recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, according to FIFA.

Blatter said he accepted that some players used banned drugs.

"At a certain time I was a little bit too candid to say there was no doping in football," he said. "There is, but not very much."

"It is very low but still we have to do the controls," FIFA chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak said. "Maybe it is the deterrent effect which is on the athletes because they know it is happening."

FIFA's current testing program especially targets players classified as high risk, including international players, those on clubs taking part in the Champions League and players with long-term injuries.

Each of the 32 European clubs playing in the Champions League have their players tested at least once in training and at least once after matches.

WADA accepted FIFA's "high risk" category after a dispute earlier this year over the whereabouts requirements demanded in the revised WADA Code which took effect in January.

FIFA successfully argued that footballers should not be available for unannounced tests 365 days a year. It said because athletes in team sports trained and played at predictable locations they should be treated differently to those in individual sports such as cycling and track and field.

Fahey said FIFA fully complied with the WADA code, and its new project would promote "intelligent testing."

"The important thing is to be smarter about what you do with doping," he said. "It's about focusing on the people that are likely to be cheating rather than simply doing blanket testing."

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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