| January 20th 2016 | Next >

How drug abuse is affecting football

The use of drugs is a problem that has blighted so many different sports and the world of football is sadly no exception. The temptation athletes face to gain a professional advantage over their rivals or simply from the availability of recreational drugs, have proven repeatedly to be too much for even some of the most talented sportspeople. Clubs must be more vigilant than ever in their efforts to make sure that any drug culture is stamped out and prevented from growing and spreading.

Potential Impacts

At the player level, drug use has an obvious impact on performance. Some think this impact will be a positive one and this is why they start using drugs in the first place. In the long term however, the health impacts are at best unknown and in many cases seriously damaging. From a psychological point of view, the impact on team morale and general camaraderie can be disastrous.

Sporting bodies are becoming smarter and more intensive in their testing and any players found to be using performance-enhancing drugs will find themselves and their teams facing fines and suspensions as well as irreparable reputational damage.

It is not only about the players either. A drug culture can permeate every part of an organisation and if stadium staff and back room employees, such as those working in finance and marketing, take inspiration from their heroes, the players, the problems can become endemic.

Courses of Action

  • Step 1 – Raise Awareness. People turn to drugs for a reason. It could be issues with work or problems at home. Players in particular suffer enormous pressure from the expectations of fans and the club. Make sure employees at all levels know the dangers and the potential implications of taking drugs, and offer them support such as advice or counselling to make sure they are aware there are always alternatives.
  • Step 2 – Regular Testing. If people know the policy and possible outcomes, then they are far less likely to risk taking drugs if they think there is a chance they will be caught. Regular testing is key here, and the advances in technology mean that testing does not need to be particularly arduous or invasive. A lot of organisations in safety critical industries like construction are already adopting such an approach and using the simplicity of an oral fluid lab test to make sure their employees are adhering to company policy and regulations.
  • Step 3 – Immediate Action. In unfortunate instances where someone is found to be using drugs, immediate action must be taken, and publicly, so that others can see the club means what it says. Such an approach, whether it is suspension with the offer of additional support or any other means of discipline, must be applied at all levels.

Ongoing Vigilance

Perhaps the most important factor is to approach this as an ongoing challenge rather than just a one-off issue to be addressed. For as long as drugs remain available, football clubs, and indeed all sporting clubs, must stay alert to the risks they pose and make sure that regular action to address these risks becomes part of business as usual. Only by relentlessly driving a positive anti-drugs culture can a negative drugs culture be avoided.