FIFA has undertaken a worldwide study to examine whether players from various ethnic populations have different naturally occurring testosterone levels.
The study -- ``Testosterone Metabolism in Different Ethnic Populations'' -- is being conducted by FIFA's medical assessment and research center (F-MARC) and the IOC-accredited, anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"It's a very sensitive matter," Andreas Herren said in a telephone interview. "FIFA is doing research on all levels to have a more comprehensive overview on the situation."
"What we want to find out is whether there are any differences in testosterone levels in different populations, and the way their bodies work and what kind of testosterone levels they have naturally," he said.
Uganda and South Africa will represent Africans in the study, which will also include Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic and African-American sample groups.
The study is still in its early stages. Players from Switzerland, Italy, Argentina and Japan will also be asked to contribute urine samples for it.
FIFA did not exclude the possibility that samples could be collected from other countries.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone, naturally produced by the body. Synthetic versions of the hormone can act like steroids to boost performance.
Currently, testers measure athletes' samples against predetermined average levels for substances naturally occurring in the body -- such as EPO and testosterone.
But this potentially allows athletes with naturally low levels to cheat without being detected. It can also lead to sanctions for those who don't cheat but have naturally high levels.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has long supported the idea of keeping medical profiles of individual athletes' physiological makeup, and creating a global data base to store and evaluate the information.
This could help resolve the problem of physiological differences among players of various ethnic groups and specific populations, like those living at high altitude who are often just over legal blood values for hemoglobin.
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