SUN CITY, South Africa -- The World Anti-Doping Agency is ready to help FIFA before the World Cup in combatting the potential use of stimulants from traditional African medicines.
WADA director general David Howman is responding to FIFA's appeal for help investigating how some African plants can give athletes an unfair advantage by providing energy boosts or helping to heal muscle injuries.
"If scientists wish to engage in research programs, we are only too happy," Howman told The Associated Press. "We have not received anything of a multination-type approach yet and if FIFA is concerned, we are only too happy to conduct more urgent research if required in advance of the World Cup."
There are fears that some plants can produce steroid byproducts that are not on WADA's list and are not picked up in doping tests. FIFA medical committee chairman Michel D'Hooghe said earlier this week he was not sure what all of these traditional medicines contained.
"If there are specific products he is worried about, we can engage with quick research," Howman said in a telephone interview. "There has been research done in the world of medicine to see what things contain, to see if they contain products that are on banned list.
"The first advice to athletes is don't take anything because you are liable for anything in your body. It's not a problem confined to Africa, these issues are worldwide -- you find there are traditional medicines in China, for example, that the IOC were a little concerned about before the Beijing Olympics [in 2008," he said.
A concern for Howman is that players may be using products -- be it plants or insects -- to heal injuries without realizing they are on WADA's prohibited list.
Howman agrees with FIFA that the $30 million spent annually on 33,000 doping tests on soccer players could be better spent since there are only about 10 positive results.
"There is no point just conducting tests to rack up numbers," Howman said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press