We have campaigned for more drug tests, say English football authorities

At least a quarter of English Football League players were not tested at all last season.

We have campaigned for more drug tests, say English football authorities

The English Football League (EFL) has "campaigned" for its players to be drug-tested more often and said it is unfair to blame it, the clubs or players for any perceived testing shortage.

Compared to the year before, the overall number of tests rose last season in the Premier League by almost a half and were up by nearly a quarter in the EFL.

But, in a breakdown of these numbers acquired by the BBC via a Freedom of Information Act request, it has emerged that at least a quarter of EFL players were not tested at all.

In the Premier League, 524 players supplied a total of 1,171 blood and urine samples, an average of more than two per player, although some will have been tested more and others less.

In the EFL, however, there were 1,494 samples collected from 2,047 players, leaving at least 553 who were not tested and, as some players will have been tested more than once, the number not tested at all will be higher.

English football's testing programme is conducted by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) on behalf of the Football Association.

A spokesman for the governing body said the programme is "research and intelligence-led" and is "one of the most comprehensive national anti-doping programmes in world sport".

Noting that the number of tests is scheduled to rise from 3,250 last season to 5,000 this campaign, the spokesman said: "Players can be, and are, tested anytime and anywhere, including at home, on a 'no advance notice' basis, regardless of whether they have or haven't been absent from training that day."

The spokesperson added that the programme is weighted to those playing higher up the ladder and those playing the most minutes. Players taking part in UEFA or FIFA competitions will also be subject to their testing regimes.

An EFL spokesman said testing of its clubs has increased as a result of additional funding and voiced some annoyance that its efforts were being criticised.

"We would absolutely welcome further and enhanced checks made on players within our competitions and have previously campaigned for an increase in excess of the current levels," he said.

"It is frustrating to see EFL players being highlighted in this manner in what is an important and sensitive matter.

"It is important that those who choose to comment on these issues, who may be on the periphery of the game or sit outside it, understand exactly how testing is managed and who is responsible for administering it. It is not the EFL, the clubs or the players."

For its part, UKAD's director of operations Pat Myhill said the agency was "pleased" the FA has upped its anti-doping budget and "would welcome similar steps from other sports".

There were only two anti-doping sanctions dished out in English football last season: a five-month suspension for Aston Villa Under-18 player Jake Humphries and a 14-month ban for ex-Accrington player Patrick Lacey.

But there were also eight breaches of the FA's social drugs rules and three clubs were charged over failures to meet whereabouts rules.

- PA

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