London: Arsene Wenger has issued a stark wake-up call to the football authorities over the issues of doping and match-fixing, claiming that sport has become “full of legends who are in fact cheats”.
The Arsenal manager also revealed his belief that cheating has been widespread in football for decades and wants the anti-doping controls to include regular in-competition -testing of the players’ blood as well as urine. As manager of Monaco at the time of the Marseille scandal in 1993, Wenger has been among the victims of serious corruption in football but was still taken aback by the scale of the Europol match-fixing -investigation which has identified 360 suspect games.
“It’s a real tsunami,” he said.
“I can’t accept it and I always was a believer that there’s a lot of cheating going on in our game and that we are not strong enough with what -happens, nor with the doping, nor with the corruption of the referees, nor with the match fixing. It’s time that we tackle this problem in a very serious way and that people who cheat are punished in a very severe way.
“You cannot accept that somebody who works the whole week decides to spend his money to go to a game and you cheat him because all is decided before he gets to the stand.”
Wenger has also closely followed the case of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who is on trial over allegations that he doped cyclists. As well as cyclists, tennis players, athletes and boxers, Fuentes has confirmed that footballers were among his clients.
Inaki Badiola, the former Real Sociedad president, has also alleged that the club made annual payments to Fuentes of about £280,000 a year before he became president. Fuentes denies being involved in doping and Wenger is frustrated that the trial will not force him to reveal the identities of the people he treated.
“They have found pockets of blood but they don’t even ask to whom does that belong,” Wenger said.
“They are not interested at all. The justice should go deeper. When you look at the functions of this doctor it is quite scary. He was involved in the “Olympic team, football team and cycling team”.
Asked if football’s drug testing programme was sufficient, Wenger said: “Honestly, I don’t think we do enough. It is very difficult for me to believe that you have 740 players in the World Cup and you come out with zero problems. Look at psychological tests that have been done on people who are at the top in all sports. When they ask them if they would take a product that would guarantee them a gold medal or a world championship, but mean that they died in the next five years, 50 per cent say ‘yes’. If you go to amateur level and do that test, only two per cent say they would take it.
“That is quite scary. That is how far people are ready to go to win in all sports. We are at the level where people are ready to do anything to win.”
Wenger wants regular in-competition blood testing in football.
“When you have a doping control at Uefa, they do not take blood, they take only urine. I have asked many times in Geneva [for that to be changed]. Sometimes you have to wait for two hours after the game, so blood could be a lot quicker. I hope we do not have a big problem with doping but we have to try to see how deep we can go into control.”
Uefa said on Friday that their existing doping controls may include blood, urine samples and any other biological material both in competition and out of competition. They also stressed that both blood and urine samples were collected at all doping controls prior to and during Euro 2012.
Fifa are planning to have in-competition blood testing at this year’s Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup. Wenger said that he could not say whether English football was immune from a doping problem but his experiences do make him believe that match-fixing is not an issue in our national game.
“It’s not a perfect world but I don’t think cheating or match-fixing is a problem,” he said.
“I personally feel English football is clean of cheating 100%. I don’t think referees are corrupt” Wenger was managing in France with Monaco during the 1992-93 season when Marseille bribed opposition players. The one proven case relates to a match against Valenciennes in 1993 when three players were offered bribes to “take their foot off the gas”, but there have been other anecdotal allegations — none proven — suggesting more widespread corruption.
“I knew what was going on, but people say ‘come on, show us the proof’,” Wenger said.
“It’s very difficult to come out with that. I discovered it slowly. If you support or manage a club and you spend sleepless nights thinking, ‘how can I win the next game?’ but in the end you discover it’s useless because it’s all done. You feel it’s a waste of time.”