Frank de Boer, Jaap Stam, Edgar Davids: The three of them connects a positive drug test. At the beginning of the millenial each one was caught with nandrolone. De Boer talked about it, again, in an interview on dutch tv. Guest contribution by Francois Duchateau.
In a tv interview Ajax coach Frank de Boer took a stand again on the reasons of his positive doping test from 2001. He never took vitamin pills from the Dutch Football Association KNVB again after the positive test, he said. But those were not to blame for the elevated quantities of nandrolone by the former Barcelona player.
Frank de Boer is often called „the Dutch Guardiola“ and indeed there are a few parallels between the 112 times Dutch international and the future Bayern coach, not only many years (also together) in the shirt of FC Barcelona. Both players won European cups, trained under Louis van Gaal and adore the football philosophy of Johan Cruyff. Right away the model pupils collected silverware with their 4-3-3 and their obsession for talents at their first station as head coach. But their cv has one black spot in common: As many stars at that time, Guardiola and de Boer were tested positive on nandrolone.
After the first leg of the UEFA Cup quarter final 2001 against Celta de Viga a four times elevated quantity of nandrolone was found in the urine of the Dutchman (8,6 nanogram per ml. The maximum permissible value for men is 2,0). Because elevated quantities of the anabolic steroid were also found at the urine Oranje team mate Edgar Davids (2,7), vitamin pills of the Dutch national team came under suspicion. Both played for different clubs during that moment: „Elftal“ captain de Boer in Barcelona, vice captain Davids at Juventus. Later also Jaap Stam was tested positive on nandrolone (5,5). FCB colleague Phillip Cocu took the effervescent tablet variant of the food supplement, because he had problems with slugging the big pills. His urine tests were as unsuspicious as the ones of Patrick Kluivert, who also played for the Catalans during that time.
After the positive doping test (also the B sample showed an elevated nandrolone quantity), the UEFA banned de Boer for one year, but only for international matches. The FIFA took the suspension over. De Boer denied the accusation and called for appeal.
The world cup winner for clubs of 1995 spent a fortune to prove his innocence. When an association is able to present a positive doping test, the player has the burden of proof. As sportsman you are responsible for your body and have to prove to have not doped on purpose. De Boer (329 matches for Ajax) asked specialists and lawyers for advise and even travelled overseas. In the meantime it was speculated if the elevated nandrolone quantity was caused by a salve de Boer gave his daughter, but this theory does not explain Davids’ suspicious tests, though.
Ban reduced, but no absolution
De Boer’s nandrolone tests were above peak value, but there are debates if you can speak about doping after a such a dose. A comparison: Linford Christie was tested with 200 nanogram per ml – a hundred times higher as the maximum permissible value. Professor van Rossum from Nijmegen has the opinion that elevated nandrolone quantities need to be found over a longer period if you want to talk about conscious doping. First after the 14th doping test of the season an abnormality at Edgar Davids was found.
Spanish scientists have speculated if multi vitamin pills in combination with cholesterol could produce steroid hormones. Generally there was a big back and forth in the debate of interpretations of nandrolone tests.
Like Christoph Daum, Frank de Boer finished his hard slog with hair sample by his own accord. The sample could not prove conscious and structural doping in the end. With the conclusion that de Boer had unknowingly taken the banned substance „by means of contaminated food supplements“ he didn’t reach an absolution, but his ban by the UEFA was reduced to eleven weeks.
Derksen meets de Boer
During his tv interview series „Derksen & …“ Voetbal International chief editor Johan Derksen asked Frank de Boer again about the happenings from 2001. The interview was broadcasted on Monday 26th February 2013. Frank de Boer told the journalist the following:
[“Doping“ topic after minute 25:30]
Johan Derksen: You might be able to laugh about the EPO talks around Lance Armstrong, because you were your ahead of time. After the game against Celta de Viga banned substances were found in you. You had nandrolone in your blood. You’ve moved heaven and earth to prove your innocence, because you were suspended for a year in first instance.
Frank de Boer:Yes, a year. What meant that I would probably have missed the World Cup. That’s why… well, the timing is always bad. But even if it just were three days…
Derksen: It was a matter of principle.
De Boer:For me it was a matter of principle.
Derksen: Did you have any idea where it came from? Obviously, it was inside you.
De Boer:No. The only explanation we had were vitamin pills we received from the KNVB, but those had a safe reputation. That was what we wanted, that’s what the KNVB wanted. The doctor underlined explicitly that those drugs were also used by the the Dutch national volleyball team. Those would be safe and got controlled frequently I believe around the Olympic games. That’s why wee took these pills. I don’t say these drugs were it in the end, because it could have been in beef for example, too.
Derksen: That’s what the cyclists use to say always, too.
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De Boer:Because Jaap Stam and Edgar Davids got trapped too, or rather: elevated quantities were found in them, too. I think that’s the source. But I don’t know.
Derksen: It has to have happened at the KNVB, because there are no coincidences. Stam, Davids and you played for three different clubs.
Derksen: And you three all had nandrolone in your blood. That’s why it has to have happened in Zeist (where the KNVB headquarter is located).
De Boer:That’s why I say: It could have happened like that. But I just [took] multi vitamine (so called „a to zinc vitamins“) and vitamin c pills – so big (shows size with his fingers). The one’s you can buy regularly at the drugstore.
overlay: press conference of de Boer, September 5th 2001
De Boer: I want to inform that I had a doping test after the UEFA Cup match against Celta. It seems that I was tested positive. But I have a clear conscience. I’ve never taken anything.
Question: Did you talk with Davids?
De Boer: Yes, sure.
Question: Did he give you a good advice?
De Boer: We talked about Juventus and Barcelona, also about the Dutch national team. But we’re both players that don’t use strange substances. I have even never touched a cigarette, he too. That’s why it is so strange.
Derksen: Now you’re coping quite calm with it, but back than…
De Boer:But I can talk now calmly about it, because I can put my hand in fire for it. That’s what the cyclists say, too. But when you have seen me as player, you know: I never was very muscular, I am not super fast. Why should I use these kind of things?
Derksen: Maybe you should have taken more (laughs). But you’ve spend tons to prove your innocence. You’ve even travelled to America because of that.
De Boer:Yes, at lawyers – we’ve been everywhere. In the end I’ve spend 750.000 to 1.000.000 Gulden in this case and in the end you’re still guilty. But on the other hand you’re not guilty, because they have given you two and a half month until you could return for the important world cup qualify match against Ireland. But they could not find me not guilty, because otherwise they needed to declare everyone not guilty. It is like bringing water into the sea.
Derksen: You leave the impression of being treated unfair.
De Boer:Yes, because you’ve [done] nothing – at least nothing I know about. I’ve never taken anything by conscious, where I know, there is something inside that makes me stronger. Just vitamins for body’s defence, nothing else.
Derksen: Have you become more careful afterwards when gave you vitamin pills?
De Boer:Well, I haven’t touched pills from the KNVB since than. Just to be safe. For the rest: At FC Barcelona you’ve had fruit shakes, milk shakes you could drink after the training. For the rest: nothing.
Formally an acquittal was possible for the Boer, but the UEFA didn’t want to create a precedence case. Probably rightly, because you have to state today – more than ten years later – the source for the higher nandrolone quantities in the urine of the Dutch national players stays unexplained. Although the signs lead to the theory of contaminated pills from the KNVB, researched showed that the Platina multi vitamin pills from Ortho Company did not contain any nandrolone. So the football professionals did not have a basis to sue the FA – the opposite was the case: The producer took legal action against Frank de Boer, who wasn’t allowed to name the company in the context of the doping affair anymore.
So what did lead to the abnormal quantities?
From a sportive view Frank de Boer did not face damage out of this affair, because his shortened suspension fell into the summer break. Next to costs in 7 digits (excluding missed bonuses) the doping case have left scratches in the paintwork of one of the best defenders of his time. Frank de Boer could defend himself from a long ban, but could not clear up completely what really happened in 2001.