Mikhail Vartapetov: ‘Italians wondered why we made our players eat hot water’
Mikhail Vartapetov: ‘Italians wondered why we made our players eat hot water’

This is the third and the final part of the interview that the head of Spartak’s medical department Mikhail Vartapetov gave to the experts of the web portal Yuri Butnev and Alexander Prosvetov.

— How often are Spartak players tested for doping? Do you give any instructions to the team keeping in mind the severity of the problem now?
— We always did. No player can take even the most innocent pill without letting the doctors know. It was true before doping scandals and after them. The difference is that the doping tests are now done more frequently. We are not upset or annoyed because of this. I can even say that we like it. I think that the players also don’t think much about these tests. Usually two of the players are being tested after the matches. The doping officers visited the club’s base two times this year. They collected samples from ten people at once.


— Were they inspectors from WADA?

— They were RUSADA’s agents from a Swedish company called IDTM. As you know, our agency still hasn’t restored its rights, so it can’t take samples. However, they have a contract with IDTM, so the representatives of this company visited the national team.


By the way, RUSADA created a really good education program for doctors, coaches and players. Anyone can take online courses and receive a certificate. All medical staff members have taken these courses.


I can say that football doping is connected with stupidity or negligence. It can’t be direct because of the specifics of this sport. One player used a diuretic to lose weight because he forgot that it was forbidden, another one didn’t check his food supplements. By the way, about 30 percent of food supplements available on the market can contain certain quantities of forbidden substances. This is why we chose to use the services of only one vendor who has an anti-doping certificate.


As for meldonium — it happened because of carelessness. Sometimes it’s really absurd: one famous athlete has a big staff of specialists who have to constantly check whether she’s taking any forbidden substances or not. How could have they missed that she continued using a drug that became forbidden? I just can’t imagine this situation. As for football — violations occur either by misunderstanding, or because the player decided to smoke something during his free time.

— Do you think that doping is not needed in football because it, so to speak, switches the brains off?
— It is a philosophical question. I don’t think that doping is really needed in sport because it’s called fraud and people should go to prison for it. It is my moral position. Football players need to have fresh perception, coordination. You can’t just run a dozen and a half kilometers like a moose without feeling tired. You also need to see the goal, to watch your opponents and to understand the situation on the field. All this cannot be done if you’re taking any stimulants which give you additional strength.

— We know that you spent your vacation in India during the season break. You studied Ayurveda medicine there. Please tell us about your journey.

— I visited Goa indeed to combine the useful with the pleasant. We are trying to include natural drugs into our pharmacological program. We don’t do it because it became popular. I really believe in Ayurveda medicine, so we use certain elements of it. Some people mistake it for homeopathy, but in reality they are not similar. Ayurveda is ancient Indian medicine based on only natural components. That being said, Indian pharmacological drugs created with specialists from England and the USA have good technological basis. 




— There were many rumors about Spartak dismissing its dietologist and cook last winter. Why did it happen?
— I want to make this clear. Sport nutritionist Sara Fabris and the chef, Walter Dri, were invited in February, last year, because Massimo Carrera recommended them for the club. We had great professional relationship. Of course there were some problems in the beginning, because not all of the players understood the nutrition rules. Football players don’t usually like nutrition specialists, because they make them control what they eat, control their body weight and condition, discuss excess weight and diets with them. Gradually the players started to understand that it was all for their benefit, that it made them stronger and increased their stamina. We took all we could from these Italian specialists. When their contracts expired we decided to not prolong them because we would be only going in circles. We already managed to make the right arrangements. The coach understood that there were more important things to take care of, so he made the decision to say goodbye. There was no scandal. The club is extremely grateful to Sara and Walter and that’s it.

— Who does their job now?
— We have a Russian chef. His name is Vyacheslav Mulchenko. He was a member of Spartak before the Italian specialists joined us, and he also works for the national team. As for the nutritional program — I take care of this as the head of our medical department. 

— Have you learned anything new from this Italian specialist?
— We learned about the new approach to cooking dishes, but it wasn’t something revolutionary. There are no secrets now; it’s easy to get any kind of information through open sources. The only thing you need to do is to understand what is fashionable and what is really effective. People started practicing vegetarianism, veganism (the most strict form of vegetarianism — Editor's note), raw diet, but those things are surely not suitable for football players who experience heavy loads. As the director of the Roman clinic said: ‘If your team has a vegetarian as a cook you need to kill him’.


— ..fry him and eat him. Do you use the table of ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ carbs?

— Just like for other types of sport we need to have the balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. You can cook the same thing, like pasta, in many ways. Some of them are good for you and some of them are not.

— Which sorts of pasta are good for the body?
— Pasta should be made from durum wheat, this is the most important thing.

— Which dishes did Carrera remove from the menu?
— Everything fried with oil, including sausages and fried eggs. They tried to go against Russian soups including borsch, but we managed to keep them in the menu. Italians couldn’t understand why we were feeding our players with hot water before the matches. We tried to come to a reasonable agreement because it’s not only about healthy and balanced sport food, but also about some habits, food preferences and traditions. We need to have some balance here. If the team mainly consists of Russian players you shouldn’t prevent them from eating some soup with meatballs before the match.

— Do you allow your players to eat pizza after the matches?
— It is common for various players to eat it to replenish your energy. For instance, the hockey players from the NHL eat it. We also gave them beer and pizza before, but we started giving them spaghetti. They also eat special pastry that is baked at our base according to Italian recipes. It allows replenishing the balance of carbs. 

— Did they have to stop eating pizza because of the dough?

— Yes. They recommended us to start giving them spaghetti. 

— Do all young football players, including the students of the Academy, follow the nutrition recommendations?
— The cooks of the Academy consult with our cooks. However, the Institute of nutrition that people usually forget about also works in this direction. This institute developed some regulations for all ages.

— You said that those football players who were born during the nineties often get injured. The nutritional balance of the citizens of our country is better now. Does it mean that this situation will change?
— The structure of nutrition — the quality and the content of products — became much better. Unfortunately the ecological situation became worse. 

— We know that modern professional players submerge into cold water that even has ice in it after the matches.
— They do it after their training sessions as well. This procedure is needed to restore the blood vessels and leg muscles. We build a mini pool made of Altai cedar in the locker room at the stadium, it smells great. We have another pool at Tarasovka base, but it’s not wooden — it’s covered with tile. We use barrels during the training camps. We even mention them as part of our requirements which are sent to the organizers.

— Is there a direct connection between the number of injuries and the way the training process is organized?
— There is no connection if you’re asking about the cruciate ligaments. As for muscle damage — yes, it can happen when the training regimen changes. Even though it seems that all coaches are similar, each of them has his own approach. This changes the load on various muscles. That’s why we joke that the physical training coach should be like your wife — you should treat him right and avoid changing him to someone else.

Date: 6 april 2018, 21:00
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