POSTED: May 20th 2009

'Hello FIFA, this is WADA . . .'

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/ZURICH: The fragility of the relationship between the world football federation and the World Anti-Doping Agency has been perfectly revealed by a mutual acknowledgement that the organisations’ presidents have . . . talked to each other.

FIFA's Sepp Blatter and WADA's John Fahey did not go as far as daring to meet face to face; they had a telephone conversation.

That, in itself however, was a step in the right direction after Blatter’s public utterances on the vexed question – vexed for football, at least – of “whereabouts” and Fahey’s dismissive retorts that he was not prepared to “negotiate via the media.”

This latest strictly diplomatic dancing between FIFA and WADA is about practice rather than essence. Both are committed to dope-free competition. The difference is that WADA wants FIFA to swallow the same medicine as every other sport – both individual and team discipline – while FIFA abhors the appearance of allowing some outside body to dictate its behaviour or administrative practices.

CAS on message

To digress, this was one reason for FIFA issuing very smartly a statement in praise of a decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport over a transfer dispute between Spain’s Zaragoza, Ukraine’s Shakhat Donetsk and the Brazilian player Matuzalem.

CAS came down firmly on the side of Shakhtar which had been claiming compensation for the player’s effective walkover.

FIFA liked that verdict and not only said so but made the point of underlining that this was in line with FIFA’s rules and regulations. The subliminal message was that FIFA’s rules are fine as they are and do not need policing by anyone else.

Same scenario with anti-doping.

Group context

FIFA is proud of its record and programme and objects to the “whereabouts” demand in the revised WADA Code which was introduced last January. This stipulates that nominated star players must inform national anti-doping organisations of their location every day, every week, every month of the year.

Football has insisted this is both intrusive and unnecessary for players who live most of their professional lives within a team/group context.

WADA’s response is that track and field athletes have been living with “whereabouts” for the past decade and that there can be – in Fahey’s words – “no lex FIFA” i.e. no exclusive opt-out clause for football.

Fahey had hoped that the new code’s introduction would be a quietly gentle procedure whose implementation could be reviewed later in the year. Blatter has scuppered that. After only four months, it’s open house on “whereabouts.”

At least they are now talking, however, and politely too.

The statements

FIFA said: “FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and his WADA counterpart, John Fahey, had a telephone conversation yesterday. ‘There is no personal disagreement between us,’ the FIFA President announced after the conversation, adding: ‘We fundamentally agree on the measures to be taken to combat doping and promote clean sport. FIFA has ratified the World Anti-Doping Code. A number of points specifically related to team sports remain to be defined, but that is all.’ The issue of doping will be on the agenda of the upcoming FIFA Congress, to be held on 2 and 3 June in Nassau (Bahamas), in which the WADA director-general, David Howman, will participate.”

From the WADA side, Fahey said: “I had a constructive discussion by phone with Mr Blatter. Mr Blatter reiterated FIFA’s commitment to the fight against doping. I am confident that we will continue to work in a spirit of cooperation as we move forward.”

That is, at the least, a start.

Keywords · FIFA · WADA · Blatter · Fahey

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