Documentary Alleges Major Doping Crisis In Brazilian Soccer
Legendary soccer player Roberto Carlos denies allegation that he was patient of doping doctor
A German documentary, filmed by the same investigative reporters who exposed the massive Russian doping conspiracy, alleges that there is a “shadowy side of Brazilian football” that includes poorly managed and executed anti-doping efforts in the South American sporting power.
The headline accusation in the ARD Network production is that legendary defender Roberto Carlos—who was part of the 2002 World Cup winners and three Champions League title teams at Real Madrid—was allegedly a patient of Dr. Júlio César Alves. The physician was recorded by hidden cameras discussing the many prominent athletes he has helped, including Carlos. A dossier about Alves obtained by the network that was compiled by the country’s anti-doping agency and provided to the public prosecutor’s office includes Carlos’s name as having been spotted in Alves’s practice in the town of Piracicaba in July 2002.
In the program, a representative for Carlos offered no comment in reply, but after its airing, he posted a statement on Facebook in which he denounced the “false accusations” and said, “I vehemently repudiate the irresponsible accusations made by the German network ARD and reaffirm that I never used any artifice that gave me an advantage over my colleagues.”
When asked follow-up questions by ARD, Alves declined comment. The documentary noted that the doctor twice before “boasted publicly” with claims that he treated Olympic athletes and elite soccer players. Interviewed in the film is distance runner Eliane Pereira, who said she was 17 years old at her first appointment with Alves and was provided with an unnamed drug to take, claiming Alves said, “Trust me.” She won a gold medal at the 2002 South American Junior Championships, which was later rescinded for a positive doping test—one of three positive tests in her career.
Some of the treatment plans Alves discussed on hidden camera are shocking. He advised beginning treatments on athletes as young as 13 or 14 years old and described the use of clenbuterol and EPO—two banned substances—with advisement of how to beat testing, through proper scheduling and other methods of trying to cheat the tests.
If all of the allegations in the documentary are true, what’s broadly disturbing is the poor institutional anti-doping efforts in Brazil. One interview subject, Marco Aurelio Klein, the former national secretary of the Brazilian Doping Control Authority, explained that there was special training for doping collectors in advance of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, yet many were not retained nor used during the Games. An anonymous former doping officer interviewed in the film claimed only five percent of controllers are qualified.
Six weeks before the Olympics, the anti-doping lab in Rio lost its accreditation due to non-compliance. A World Anti-Doping Agency postmortem of the Games said the drug testing in Rio had “serious logistical failings.” ARD reports that only five tests were conducted out of competition over the space of a year—for the entire nation’s athletes.
Furthermore, the former Portuguese anti-doping boss, Luis Horta, who worked on behalf of the United Nations as a consultant to the Brazilian anti-doping agency, quit the post over a lack of support. He told ARD, “Before the Games, there were pressures not to perform out-of-competition doping controls—pressures by the Brazilian Olympic Committee. I understood that they have not the same objectivity. They want medals and medals and medals without being sure that these medals are clean medals.”
The BOC did not respond to ARD, but the film said the BOC had told local media that the doping tests “severely disrupted” the athletes’ preparations.
Horta said prosecution of Alves for his alleged infractions has proven difficult because he is not officially linked with any sports federation and the public prosecution office has not made progress. When visited, the prosecutor said he did not even remember Carlos’s name being included in the dossier. For now, Horta said Alves is still able to practice, “ruining the lives of athletes and Brazilian sports.”