KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- A German television investigation has raised new concerns over doping problems in domestic football with a claim that painkillers were being  “handed around like Smarties.”

The purpose, according to an ARD documentary led by specialist reporter Hajo Seppelt is not so much to deaden pain but to imbue players in both professional and amateur football with delusional over-confidence as to their fitness with possible long-term personal health consequences.

Seppelt played a leading investigative role in revealing the ongoing Russian doping and cover-up scandal.

Neven Subotic . . . worried by absence of care

German federation president Fritz Keller has said he was “shocked” by the findings. He added: “We absolutely have to go to our regional associations and raise an awareness of this through trainers.” As Keller noted, grassroots sport is “intended to keep you healthy – not to wreck you.”

ARD said in a statement about the research behind the documentary that it had discovered enormous abuse of medicines such as ibuprofen in amateur football and that  “German football has a big problem with painkillers.”

Supposedly harmless substances for countless players had become indispensable aides from “regional level to the Bundesliga” and “with sometimes dramatic health consequences”.

Player pressure

Dani Schahin, formerly with Hamburg, Fürth, Düsseldorf and Mainz, said: “If you are dependent on playing, then it is simply not realistic to continue without pain medication.”

Other statements about abuse of pain relieving substsances cames from Jonas Hummels, brother of Borussia Dortmund’s World Cup winner Mats Hummels, and former Dortmund favorite Neven Subotic, now with Union Berlin.

Subotic said: “What I have seen in the past 14 years is that Ibuprofen is distributed like smarties. To my knowledge, the clubs do not do much educational work, because they are under pressure to get the player back out on the pitch as quickly as possible.”

ARD, on the basis of interviews with more than 150 Bundesliga players, ex-professionals, coaches, team doctors, scientists and officials, that “more than 40pc of the reasons given for taking painkillers relate to the motivation to want to perform better in the game – regardless of pain or injury. ”

Doping issues cast a long shadow over German football, right back to the 1954 World Cup-winning team and then in the Bundesliga in the 1980s according to revelations from national team goalkeeper Toni Schumacher,