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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Ask the Extra – Doping, Wenger and the Laws of the Games

Written by on March 23, 2011 | 11 Comments »
Posted in Ask the Extra, General


How does the banned substances rules really work in Europe?  Do you know how it is different from the NFL/NHL/NBA? Seems pretty unfair to ban Kolo Toure if it was an honest mistake and/or the effects of the banned substance are minor.


First of all I have to apologize for not responding more quickly to your question given that Kolo Toure was suspended a few weeks ago.

To start with I think we have to reframe the question a little bit. It think it is not a case of how do the rules really work in Europe but more a case why are the rules often different in North America.

I will refer to the NFL/NHL/NBA/MLB as North American run sports. What I mean by that is that these leagues essentially operate outside of the mainstream of world sport and their rules and regulations are developed and implemented for the leagues as stand-alone entities.

Almost in all other cases the rest of the sporting world (Olympic sports anyway) operate under the umbrella regulations put forward by the world anti-doping agency WADA.

WADA regulates the testing protocols, tries to stay ahead of dopers and lobbies intensely for clean sport. Within the ant-doping protocols there are sentences for offences. WADA and its chief promoter the IOC wanted the sentences to be standardized across all sport and all countries.

You may remember a few years ago that there was an ongoing squabble between FIFA, WADA and the IOC about standardized sentencing.

FIFA stood firmly against it and put forward the position that flexibility must be given otherwise they feared a transgressor might be able show that due process was not followed in terms of context and circumstance and that bans would finish up in the judicial court system rather than the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The North American run sports make up their own rules – many of which are regarded as very loose in terms of doping – and punishments and testing procedures are often covered under collective agreements.

As for an innocent mistake or effects being minor I think we have to be careful believing the standard communication that is trotted out after a positive test. Elite athletes are constantly made aware of the dangers of taking substances that have not been checked out by medical teams.

The excuse of “I did not know” has worn thin many years ago. If your livelihood depended on something like that would you really ingest anything without a moment’s consideration?

It is the same with “minor” levels of a banned substance. In a number of cases the substance is not banned because it enhances performance but because it is a masking agent that is used to cover the presence of other performance enhancing drugs.


Hi Bobby, I think it is time to show the Arsenal Manager the way out if the team wants to win any hardware. It appears he had lost his touch and only interested in making money for the club.

He doesn’t want any big name because he can’t manage them. He doesn’t want a player that will question him.

It is time to let him go so the club can get a silver ware after about six years now.


Your point about Arsene Wenger avoiding controversial but talented players may well be true. However, I doubt it is as simple as replacing Wenger and silverware will magically appear. I also would question whether having a player argue comes with the same pay off.

I remain one of the people who believe that what Wenger has achieved at Arsenal will only be fully appreciated in the years to come. If you look around Europe just consider how small the group of teams is that have been consistently competitive over the last 15 years.

To do so while financing a new stadium, making a profit in the transfer market while not slipping out if the top 4 and making it to the knock stages of the Champions League is a remarkable achievement I believe.

You can point to Chelsea as an example of a team that has spent money and become successful but they have yet to successfully negotiate a transition to a new generation – something that Wenger had done on at least three occasions.


Last year before the beginning of the season I remember – because I am an avid follower of your slot when you join in on Fox Soccer Report for your analysis which is very intelligent and shows your depth and expertise on football matters – you put your reputation on the line when you said Arsenal was the most prepared and have been together for a long time, and should win the league and it turned out not to be the case.

Did that affect your respect or regard for the team, because you seem to shy away from any serious consideration of them, both during the beginning of the season and as it winds down.

Are you frustrated like most of us Arsenal supporter or do you think its just a waste of your enormous talent to keep wasting it on Arsenal? Sorry it’s quite a long and twisty question. I do appreciate you spending your time to read this, and keep up the fantastic job you are doing.


Valentine – that was back at the start of the 2009/10 season. As I explained at the time it was a prediction was done with not a lot of conviction and was more a case of pushing back on the widespread forecasting of Arsenal dropping out of the top four. At the time Jeremy suggested that Arsenal’s finish would be 5th at best.

There was a flaw in the logic I thought. Often the reason for their decline was been put down to being a young team. But a young team gets better not worse so why would they not improve rather than decline?

On the Fox Soccer Report and on Soccer Report Arsenal receives just as much time as other major teams in the Barclay’s Premier League – in fact more than most. I think others can vouch for the number of times I have stated that Arsenal needed to sign a top class goalkeeper and a centre back.

I have also gone on at length at the importance of Van Persie and Fabregas to Arsenal and how without Fabregas the team gets into a rut of passing the ball across the pitch and cannot find the right pass to penetrate heavily manned defences.


I like the game of soccer very much. I probably watch every soccer game on fox soccer and plus and Espn and even on computer (Europa league).

I am and have been a Liverpool fan for over 25 years, but soccer a lot of times lets me down because I think it is the most poorly officiated game in the world.

They are talking about goal line technology but I have seen more off-sides not called resulting in goals and off-sides called when they were not.

I written to so many soccer experts but no answer came about some fouls I felt they were but were over looked by officials. What do you think? I have seen so many goals scored yet when you look at it a striker has used his hands to leverage himself by riding on defenders shoulders to gain height. Peter Crouch does this many times. Is it a foul to you?

Most other sports have reviews or challenges. Do we need that in soccer? Soccer is a running game and probably this would slow game but with so many calls unfair?

If I was a referee I would rather end with 8 vs 11 or 9 vs 10 etc but follow the laws to the letter.

Off-side for me is if an attacker is ahead close to goal even by a toe or shoulder…it is off-side.


Although we are constantly told by TV commentators that referees should be consistent and use common sense (mutually exclusive objectives) the reality is that the rule book cannot provide you with definitive decisions for every possible situation.

As with almost every other team sport that involves contact, if all the Laws of the Game were enforced “strictly as written” the play would stop on almost every contact between two players.

I think that it often forgotten that using your strength is not necessarily a contravention of the rules and as long as it is not done in a reckless or violent way.

If you officiated and kept to the letter of the law I don’t think you would manage to have enough players on the field in order to complete a game.

Do we need a coach having the right to challenge a referee’s decision – in my opinion absolutely not. It would be a disaster – you might as well start to watch a committee meeting.

In relation to offside – well it has always been a problem and until someone comes up with something else it will always be inherently flawed.

There have been experiments to show how difficult – impossible in some situations – to call it correctly given the speed of the pass, the players and the different directions.

I was watching the Manchester United v Bolton game and after Evans got sent off the camera showed Ferguson on the phone obviously in contact with someone on the bench.

What is the point of suspending a coach if he is still, in effect, coaching and able to keep in contact with the bench while in the stands?


I would have to agree and I think a lot of people will have been shocked to find out that a touch-line ban means only that – banned from sitting on the touchline.

The punishment makes it an inconvenience rather than anything else.


This Thursday Eoin and me will be recording a new Podcast with it pretty much dedicated to answering your questions. So here is your opportunity to get questions addressed. Just post them below or e mail to us through “Ask the Extra” on the right side of this website.

You can get updates through RSS (top of the page), follow at Twitter BobbySoccerRep, or on Facebook

You can also find other Soccer Report contributors on Twitter by following this link.

11 responses to “Ask the Extra – Doping, Wenger and the Laws of the Games”

  1. Ian says:

    In regards to that last question about Fergie’s Phone: I could swear I remember a whole flurry of attention a couple years back when Mourinho was in the stands and went through all kinds of cloak and dagger with wool caps and hands over mouths to hide what was obviously communication between him and his assistants down on the touch line. We never did see any earpiece or phone, they went to such lengths to hide it. Skip to this weekend with a bright white phone at either end and no effort to conceal anything. Did something change in that time? Was it a different situation? The bright white phone was comical really.

  2. Ian – I am certain that Mourinho’s suspension was an UEFA one and they stipulate no contact. That is what will happen to Arsene Wenger for the start of the Champions League (or Europa League) next season.

    I have to say that the UEFA suspension makes far more sense. The FA suspension is like telling a player he can still play but he must stay in his own half …..and not shout at his teammates!

  3. Rahul says:


    Excellent article, thank you. Your point about it K Toure not “knowing’ is well taken. I thought it was harsh at the time, but since many of the banned substances mask the true steroids, it makes sense.

  4. Bryan says:

    Bobby – Would you like to talk a bit about your playing days with Tayport and your supporting days with Dundee?

    Eoin – What’s your story? Playing and/or supporting?


  5. Bryan

    My playing days continue – just slower….much slooooower

  6. rdm says:

    Do you play in a Winnipeg rec league Bobby? I’m surprised I haven’t seen you kicking around the local fields.

  7. John says:

    comment test 🙂

  8. John says:

    test comment 24

  9. Joe Mommertz says:

    Bobby I watch fox soccer report almost every night, and look forward to your segments on Mondays and Fridays (CL tues. and CL wed.). I read your response to Richard’s question about Arsenal replacing Wenger (which I think would be huge mistake). Who do you think would be a good replacement, to take over a squad hes built? How would the older players who have been their for longer take to a new manager? Thanks Bobby
    -PS your my hero

  10. Jim Haskayne says:

    I would like to know why Mexico has teams in the Copa Libertadores when they are in Concacaf

  11. Jim – This is not suppose to sound off handed but the simple reason is because they were invited to do so and it was allowed. Mexico is a very large TV market and therefore it generates substantial TV rights fees for the Copa Libertadores when Mexican teams are involved.

    If the CONCACAF Champions League ever takes hold (really takes hold) then things will change no doubt.

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