With the possibility looming of a fourth footballer who may have been administered unknown substances by his club suffering health problems, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou addressed on Tuesday the seriousness of the issue, which, he said, must be investigated in depth.
The issue of intravenous administration of unknown substances to football players who may be subsequently developing heart problems, forcing them to quit the game, “is a very very serious matter”, Nicolaou told state broadcaster Cybc on Tuesday.
Two players from first division club Alki, Panayiotis Frangeskou, 27, and Panayiotis Loizides, 23, asked police on November 1 to investigate whether recently discovered identical heart problems that forced them to quit the game were a result of intravenous injections containing unknown substances administered to them by the club officials during the previous season.
The issue must be investigated in depth, Nicolaou said, as it involves athletes who have put in a great deal of effort in order to find themselves competing in the first division of the football league which is highly demanding.
“It is unacceptable that some people exploit the willingness of these athletes to compete in order to make profit … we must be prepared to deal with any phenomena involving doping,” Nicolaou added.
A third player, Andreas Frangeskou, 22, the brother of Panayiotis Frangeskou, also filed a complaint with the police last Saturday, claiming that he too was forced to quit the game early due to heart problems, which may have been caused by unknown substances he was intravenously administered by the teams he played for, namely Omonia and Nea Salamina.
In a press conference on Monday, Alki chairman Andys Loppas revealed that a fourth footballer playing for a third division side is currently hospitalised in Larnaca possibly for similar reasons, “but I’d imagine that no one knows about that case,” he said.
Loppas said he believes that the issue emerged due to “professional rivalries,” but did not specify the rivalries he was alluding to.
“Our club is in favour of the police investigations,” Loppas added.
He said Alki never administered illegal substances to its players, as anything administered to them was done so legally with the cooperation of a particular chemist who, according to Loppas, also worked with other big athletes and clubs.
In view of ongoing investigations, police have requested the cooperation of the health ministry, asking the medical services to appoint an officer to provide them with information on intravenous drug legislation, and from the pharmaceutical services to examine the substances administered to the two Alki players, and to determine whether they were legally licensed.
Contrary to the claims of the two Alki players, who stated that the heart problems they discovered were identical, Loppas said they suffer from different conditions: Frangeskou from dilated cardiomyopathy and Loizides from noncompaction cardiomyopathy.
“We were shocked,” Loppas said, “that only Alki players went to the police and not players of other teams. The only team stigmatised is Alki, even though the players come from two or three other teams.”
“This issue with Alki is just the tip of the iceberg and does not involve just one team,” Pasp chairman Sypros Neophytides told SuperSport FM on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if more cases will arise, but if the proper tests are not carried out then we’ll see the web grow. From the statements already made to police, more information is coming in and it shows more teams are involved,” he added.
If the fourth affected footballer that Loppas revealed is in possession of a valid health certificate, then serious changes need to be made in the game of football, starting from requiring every athlete to renew their health certificate every year, rather than every three years as it now stands, he said.