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 February 28, 2002 | 1500 IST

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FIFA considering blood tests at World Cup

Tough anti-doping measures, including the introduction of blood tests, could be in place to deter players from using banned substances at the World Cup this summer, FIFA said on Thursday.

FIFA General Secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen also told reporters in Tokyo that an independent disciplinary panel would decide punishments for players who test positive in South Korea and Japan.

"For the first time, doping offences will be dealt with by a three-man disciplinary committee in charge of dealing with the sanctions for offenders," he said on Thursday.

At previous World Cups, the FIFA organising committee was responsible for deciding punishments for players found to have used performance-enhancing drugs.

FIFA medical experts, who would provide the disciplinary panel with a written report on the type of substance used by the player, said that they are giving serious consideration to bringing in blood testing at the World Cup.

"We are studying darbepoetin and thinking of implementing similar procedures to those used in Salt Lake. We might even introduce blood sampling at the World Cup," said Jiri Dvorak, a member of FIFA's sports medical committee.

Darbepoetin, similar to the banned blood-boosting agent erythropoietin (EPO), hit the headlines at the recent Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when three cross-country skiers, including Spain's triple gold medallist Johan Muehlegg, tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug.


Zen-Ruffinen also announced that FIFA may allow a "drinks break" during matches at the World Cup since the tournament takes place in the rainy season in South Korea and Japan, when high temperatures and humidity are expected.

"We will look into either giving players a short break or allowing them to go to the sideline for a drink," he said.

Officials from all 32 World Cup teams, attending a two-day World Cup "workshop" in Tokyo, have asked for security to be made top priority following the September 11 attacks in the U.S.

Meanwhile, after some delegations raised concerns about travel and accommodation arrangements as a result of moving between South Korea and Japan, Zen-Ruffinen said that FIFA would try to lay on special charter flights for teams.

"Some routes are a problem for teams so we may have to book charter flights shortly before matches and ask the two countries to amend the flight schedules," he said.


On the pitch, Zen-Ruffinen confirmed that referees would be instructed to show players the yellow card for diving and said that a full list of rule amendments would be known after a refereeing seminar in Seoul from March 20 to 23.

Zen-Ruffinen also said that a full-time press liaison officer would be assigned to World Cup referees for the first time to ensure "transparency" in the officiating of games.

However, FIFA may be set to spoil the fun for players who take their goal celebrations too far at the World Cup.

"We might go back to the old rule of making players keep their shirts on. We were not expecting all these (undershirt) messages so we want to try to bring the problem under control," said Zen-Ruffinen.

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