A week after Wenger criticisd UEFA’s complacency on drugs cheats, Arsenal get a visit from ten members of the organisation’s doping control unit the next.
Coincidence? Arsene Wenger couldn’t possibly say. But it might just be that he has ruffled a few feathers with his very public belief that football has its head in the sand over drugs. Just like athletics did.
“I don’t remember we have been visited (by doping control) before.” said the Arsenal boss. “We have nothing against it. I called for more blood checks. That’s a major issue.
“I said before that I want better controls. And we got better controls straight away.” he smiled.
It is no laughing matter for Arsenal, however. Fighting for their lives in their Champions League Group F, they face a Dinamo Zagreb team that benefited from the contribution of midfielder Arijan Ademi on September 16.
The Macedonian played all 90 minutes of Zagreb’s 2-1 win that night. He may have since been banned for four years but his club have remained in the competition because UEFA rules allow the result to stand if just one player in a team is caught doping.
There is a precedent for that controversial UEFA approach. Wales failed with a bid to replace Russia at the 2004 European Championships after playmaker Igor Titov failed a drugs test.
“It doesn’t look logical,” said Wenger. “Especially if you test only three players.
“It’s a surprising rule. You cannot say that they had a doped player but the result stands. That means you basically accept doping.”
Whatever Arsenal’s shortcomings that leave them in such a perilous Champions League state, Wenger is absolutely right to question the desire within football to deal with the doping problem.
A drugs scandal remains ongoing in athletics, where a World Anti-Doping Agency report has accused Russia of running a “state-sponsored” doping programme.
Although UEFA currently take blood and urine samples in and out of competition, they test only two players from each squad after European games. Even then they only do that if have the personnel on site to do so.
It means that if players are inclined to cheat, the temptation for some could be too great.
“If you look at the psychological tests that have been done for 20 years, the temptation is natural.” said Wenger.
“When a guy is second – I speak about track and field – there is only room for the hero, that means the winner.
“The second nobody cares about. So when he sees he arrives second and the first cheats, he thinks what have I to do.
“The temptation is of course there. Nobody cares about the second, and sometimes the second is maybe the guy who doesn’t cheat.”
Asked whether his players had ever returned during the dressing room after a match convinced that the opposition had been “on the juice”, Wenger paused, then took the more diplomatic route.
“I don’t remember that.” he said. The Arsenal boss would prefer this season to be remembered for a group stage recovery and a successful advance into the latter stages of the Champions League.