Brazil’s Dirty Game

Brasiliens schmutziges Spiel

DOPING: TOP SECRET

Brazil’s Dirty Game

Von Hajo Seppelt, Florian Riesewieck und Thilo Neumann

Record world champion, Olympic champion: Brazil, land of the football. But what lies behind the Seleção’s performance? A year before the World Cup 2018, research conducted by the ARD Doping Editorial Team reveals possible connections to a dubious doping doctor that reach far into the Brazilian football elite. A 2002 world champion is also suspected of having been one of the patients.

The shadowy side of Brazilian football comes to light at the end of a dusty cul-de-sac, two hour’s drive northwest of São Paulo. Here, in Piracicaba, Júlio César Alves – a doping doctor – has his practice. Undercover footage by the ARD Doping Editorial Team provide evidence of this doctor’s dubious treatment methods: Alves prescribes highly potent, prohibited doping agents to healthy athletes, and – according to his own accounts – also helps to manipulate doping tests. Alves claims that he medically handles dozens of top athletes, including current Brazilian national football players.

Among Alves’ patients there might perhaps also have been one of the most famous players of Brazilian football: Roberto Carlos, 2002 world champion and threefold Champions League winner. The world star’s name is in a dossier that was handed over to the São Paulo Public Prosecution Service by the Brazilian Anti-Doping Agency ABCD in 2015. The more than 200-paged report, available to the ARD Doping Editorial Team, documents in detail the dubious practices of Júlio César Alves. It also contains the testimony of a witness, who claims to have seen "Roberto Carlos, the former player of the Brazilian national football team" in Alves’s practice, "in July 2002". 

A further piece of evidence: When ARD reporters visit the doctor under a pretext, in May 2017, and pretend to be managers of professional European football players, Alves mentions the name Roberto Carlos himself. Alves claims that Carlos was one of his patients, to whom he prescribed a number of substances. Statements the doctor will later refuse to comment further on in response to an official ARD inquiry – Alves remains silent in the face of these allegations. 

Before the story was published Roberto Carlos responded to the official ARD inquiry on the allegations against him with: no comment. Right after the documentary came out Carlos posted an open letter on his Facebook-Profile stating: "I repudiate vehemently the irresponsible accusations made by the german network ARD and affirm that I have never used any artifice to allow me to have any advantage over my colleagues in the playing field."

Independent of Roberto Carlos’s case: the fact that Dr. Alves is evidently supplying athletes with doping substances has actually been known in Brazil for years. Already in 2002 and in 2013, Alves boasted publicly about his supposed client base of Olympic participants and national football players. In Brazilian television, he purportedly treated athletes with doping agents. And if that’s not enough: A few weeks ago, he even talked about doping children and adolescents to our ARD reports, disguised as sports managers. He claims treating 13- and 14-year-old next-generation athletes with growth inhibitors, to delay puberty. There he boosts the adolescents’ muscles growth – by doping them.  

Despite such statements: The doctor still continues to practice undisturbed. "We could not open a disciplinary sports proceedings against him, because he doesn’t belong to a sports organization", says Luís Horta, who advised the Brazilian Anti-Doping Agency on behalf of the UN until 2016. This is why he, and the former ABCD head Marco Aurelio Klein had collected evidence and indices, which they had then passed on to the state prosecution. “Nothing has happened until today, Alves can continue to openly treat athletes with doping agents”, Horta remarks. 

Serious efforts in the fight against doping are not discernible in the record-holding land of the football world champion. At the ARD’s request, São Paulo’s public prosecutor informs us that the ABCD’s documents have been passed onto the police – yet they cannot say anything about the current state of the investigations. Meanwhile, Alves continues practicing.

Eliane Pereira, former Brazilian top runner, was once treated by Alves. She claims that Alves doped her, partly without her knowledge. He advised her on how to manipulate doping samples in such a way that she wouldn’t be discovered. She remembers doping controls, in which, unnoticed by the controllers, she was able to falsify the urine sample: "I put the ointment on my private parts. Then, I urinate, my urine mixes with the ointment and that’s how the doping test is manipulated." She had received this piece of advice from Alves. Alves does not respond to the official ARD request regarding these allegations either. Cheats have an easy ride, also in professional Brazilian football. This is at least the account of a former doping controller of the national football association CBF. The main reason for this was that the responsible staff was not sufficiently qualified to do the job. "I’m guessing that maybe only five percent of all controllers are even qualified to do the job", the man states anonymously. For fear of reprisals, he says. "The rest are car sellers, physiotherapists, carpenters, migrant workers. It’s all about personal connections."

Blatant violations occur on a regular basis in controls of the top Brazilian football league, our informant tells us. "In Brazil, an athlete can often even take a shower before a control if he likes. In doing so, he could urinate unobserved and thus get rid of urine containing traces of doping", he explains. In a game with the current Brazilian champion Palmeiras, the ARD Doping Editorial Team also notices several violations against the internationally applicable anti-doping rules. Is the fight against doping a farce in Brazil?

For cheats, forbidden substances are easy to get hold of: Those who do not want to pay the high fees of doping doctors, such as Júlio César Alves, can purchase EPO and anabolic agents in the pharmacies or with streetdealers – in a manner that is quick, easy and practical, as undercover footage of the ARD Doping Editorial Team substantiates. Many of the substances (originally) come from Paraguay, produced at the first known, legally run production company worldwide, nearly exclusively for doping drugs – in which the ARD did undercover research. One of the managers there claims - captured by hidden cameras - that members of Brazilian football clubs were also among their customers. This is later refuted by the company in response to an official ARD request.

One year before the Football World Cup in Russia, a big shadow lies over Brazil’s past victories. Jogo bonito, the beautiful game – appears to be also a dirty one.

Stand: 11.06.2017, 11:59

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