Footballers no exception to doping rules

ATHENS - The world's best football players are no exception to doping rules and are already available for testing throughout the year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Wednesday.

Rejecting criticism from FIFA over the 'whereabouts' rule, WADA said world football's governing body so far was in compliance with the code and there was no difference in the way the rule was interpreted.

Sources said WADA chief John Fahey in the coming days was due to meet FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has repeatedly rejected the rule and called WADA a "police" organisation.

"There is no discrepancy in what we are saying. FIFA are in compliance as we speak and there is no difference of opinion," WADA Director General David Howman told Reuters on the sidelines of a doping conference.

WADA dismissed allegations days ago the anti-doping agency had appeased FIFA by watering down its whereabouts rule, which requires athletes to give three months' notice of where they will be for an hour each day.

FIFA and European football body UEFA have pressed for changes, arguing the rule is unfair and should apply only to teams and not individual players.

"If a player is on holiday and not registered by the team then he can be put on the registered testing pool by his national anti-doping agency," said Howman.

He said the list of athletes included in the testing pool differed according to country and while WADA had no influence as to who was included in each country there was an understanding that whoever needed to be on the list should be added to it.

International federations had their own separate registered testing pool, with top footballers added to FIFA's pool as well and required to provide location details.

END-OF-YEAR REVIEW

"It is not up to WADA. It is up to the agencies and federations to draw up the pool," Howman said.

Asked whether top players had to give details throughout the year, Howman said:

"Michael Ballack, for example, is on the German pool as national team member. So he has to provide his details not only as part of the Chelsea team but also as an individual year round."

WADA vice chairman Arne Ljungqvist, who is also the International Olympic Committee medical chief, said the overall process, which applies to all team sports, would be reviewed at the end of the year.

"I am satisfied with the way this process has been going on and we will review it at the end of the year," he said.

FIFA had demanded that out-of-competition tests take place only at club training facilities, and that players should not be tested during holidays to respect their private lives.