Football Association increases investment in anti-doping programme

The Football Association will conduct almost 5,000 drug tests next season, double the number it carried out in the 2015-16 campaign, at a cost of almost £2 million.

The FA pays UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) to carry out a significant number of tests beyond what it would do as part of its "public interest testing."

Neither the FA nor UKAD would confirm the cost of these additional tests but Press Association Sport understands UKAD's average price for a urine test is £400, with blood and biological passport tests costing closer to £500.

Almost half of these costs are associated with the collection and transport of the samples, so the unit cost can be reduced in team sports if multiple samples are collected at a time. But Press Association Sport understands the FA also pays UKAD for a comprehensive drug awareness education programme.

According to statistics published on the FA website, UKAD conducted 2,442 blood and urine tests in English football during the 2015-16 season and is planning to do more than 3,000 this season. Every sample collected by UKAD on behalf of the FA is also screened for recreational drugs.

Between 2012 and 2016 there were seven anti-doping offences and 13 positive tests for recreational drugs.

Two of the latter are understood to have been provided by Jose Baxter, the midfielder who is due to rejoin Everton this summer when his one-year ban is completed later this month.

Hull midfielder Jake Livermore and Ross County goalkeeper Aaron McCarey -- the latter was with Wolves at the time -- each failed a test in 2015.

The remaining nine positives for recreational drugs have been kept private by the players' clubs, although Saido Berahino's eight-week ban for a positive test earlier this season was revealed by the Daily Mail earlier this month.

The Berahino case has prompted a debate about how positive tests for recreational drugs, where there is no suggestion of cheating to enhance performance, should be treated by the authorities.

The FA has not commented publicly on this issue but is understood to be angry at this suggestion, as it believes young men and women who make a mistake deserve a second chance and should not have their reputations tarnished for something that is not uncommon in wider society. It also points out that any dissembling that takes place to explain a player's absence is done by that player's club.

On the bigger issue of anti-doping, the FA's willingness to pay for extra tests must be contrasted with the situation in Spain, where the continuing problems its national anti-doping agency has had over the last year has resulted in no valid tests being conducted in the Spanish leagues this season.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) declared the Spanish agency AEPSAD and the main anti-doping lab in Madrid "non-compliant" last March and the country's political turmoil has delayed efforts to get those bans lifted.

In a written statement, AEPSAD said it had asked FIFA and UEFA to provide a basic level of testing in Spain this season but both organisations said they lacked the jurisdiction to do so, meaning Europe's most successful league in recent years has not been tested for performance-enhancing drugs.

A WADA statement described this news as "alarming".

"It will do little to instil confidence in clean sport at a time when it is needed most," it added.