Rio Ferdinand has been handed a eight-month ban and fined £50,000 after being found guilty of the 'failure or refusal' to submit to a drugs test at Manchester United's training ground.
With FIFA chief Sepp Blatter and World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound looking on a three man Independent Disciplinary Commission handed out a punishment that rules the England defender out of Euro 2004.
United will appeal against the what they call a 'savage and unprecedented' and punishment and could go to court. [+]
I am outraged by the length of the ban imposed on Rio Ferdinand by the FA Disciplinary Commission. The case has caught the FA completely unprepared to deal with the problem of drugs in football, and in my view the size of the punishment is an attempt to deflect embarrassment and international scorn over its own incompetence.
The problem for the FA and Mark Palios is that the existing procedure for dealing with drugs is wholly inadequate. The instructions and regulations issued to the testers themselves are incomplete and contradictory, the number of tests hitherto administered within English professional football is ludicrously small, and the precedent from previous cases is of lenient treatment. These facts all send the message that up till now the FA has not taken the drug problem very seriously.
The proper way to correct this state of affairs is first to create a new system of testing, with watertight procedures for players, clubs and testers, a vast increase in the number of tests, and a list of prescribed punishments for each type of offence.
An advance date should then be set for the introduction of such a system, and a vigorous publicity campaign conducted up till that date. This would enable clubs to put procedures in place to protect themselves from the loss of their playing assets for up to 2 years in such situations, and would give players a chance to understand their own responsibility with respect to drug testing.
My outrage over the length of Rio's ban is predicated on his innocence: if I knew that he had in fact taken proscribed drugs I would support a two year ban.
Martin Levi, Tel Aviv
I am not too surprised at Manchester's reaction to the ban imposed on Rio. Given the usual red-carpet treatment that the FA accords to the team and its manager, would you say Sir Ferguson's reaction is misplaced?
Such team-sanctioned arrogance is what is destroying the attitude of Man U players. As regards the length of the ban, I feel it is not punitive enough though it is just enough to jolt that bunch of stubborn officials into realising that their team can never be larger than the FA.
Paul N. Lupiya, Malawi
Drugs are no laughing matter, but the state of football certainly is. Only in such a ludicrous world can someone be publicly declared guilty by their governing authorities before they even have their case heard. And more to the point, where on earth is the consistency in judgement?
One player misses a test because he is late picking up his mother and receives a slap on the wrist, and Ferdinand does what is for all intents and purposed essentially the same thing and is banned for 8 months? Where is the logic in any of this? How is this situation any different from the previous? Both missed scheduled tests, full stop, end of story.
Nobody is disputing that Ferdinand's was a silly and irrational mistake to make, but to assume that the intent was deceitful and his actions were calculated to cover his usage of performance-enhancing drugs is absurd in the absence of any such proof.
Football champions itself as the world representative of fair play. Where then was the fair play in the Ferdinand case? I am continually disgusted with the state of this game and the shocking inconsistency in it's sanctions, and the morally corrupting influence of FIFA.
Rio Ferdinand deserves the 8-month suspension that he received. He is a professional footballer who should be expected to remember important things such as drug tests, especially at £29.3m.
I believe that he intentionally manipulated the drug-testing process because, had he not, I'm sure the FA would not have spend months on the issue only to levy such a serious penalty in the end. Perhaps this penalty will serve to stir Mr. Ferdinand's memory and that of his fellow footballers.
FA players are professionals. They should be expected to act as such.
Regardless of which story the panel believed (or was that media speculation overload?), the sentence was a "compromise".
As a United supporter long before present crop of players were even born, I'm secretly delighted that United's defence will not leak goals easily anymore. Brown on the way back, United promised continued payment to Rio, no one suffered big time, lawyers win, So there!
Time to sign a rock solid defender rather than a toothpick! What astounds me is the relative leniency those boorish thugs from Arsenal got for manhandling Ruud van Nistelrooy beamed to millions all over the world. What constitutes an FA panel? Krusty the Clown? London Media Mafia?
A three-month ban and a fine, yes. But what the FA has now done is shown itself to be whimsical and despotic and to have absolutely no judgement or common sense whatsoever. This hardly strengthens their hand. They just seem to be making it up as they go along.
When the case is appealed, they won't budge, so it will go to some independent legal review which will challenge the basis of their judgment and show them to have neither legal grounds nor precedent for what they have done. Even Stam only got 5 months and he tested positive.
There might even be a human rights defence against the arbitrariness of the decision. It could go on for ever. You know what Man Utd will be like, appealing everything - every member of the England squad from Old Trafford will be injured whenever a game comes up. Then Sven will leave, sooner now, rather than later.
And for what? An offence which last time was punished by only a £2,000 fine. This was as far from justice.
Well done to the FA for putting football first. The inevitable backlash from this ban will no doubt cause much mud to be slung in their direction but it must be known that 8 months is a fair and reasonable punishment.
No doubt England and Man Utd will miss him but the closest precedent to this case must be Shane Warne where he received 12 months for testing positive to a diuretic - barely performance enhancing but illegal none the less.
Ferdinand's 8 months for refusing or failing to take the test is just, regardless of whether he was positive or not. The FA have now set a strong precedent therefore making it easier for football to stay (relatively) clean of drug cheats and allowing a more straight forward prosecution process for anyone who has tested positive or who has skipped the test.
England and Man Utd will no doubt miss Ferdinand, just as Australia are now missing Warne, but this is preferable (to any fan) than these individuals being put above their respective sports - which must never happen - and is why United's appeal should be dismissed.
Andrew Browne, Sydney, Australia
The Rio Ferdinand eight month ban is a joke! The way I see it, there are two scenarios:
1. If Rio was simply forgetful, and there was no evidence of anything sinister, he should have received a "slap on the wrist" in a similar form to that of the Man City player last season (maybe a fine and a few matches).
2. If there is any evidence that he was deliberately trying to avoid the test he should have been banned for the full two years.
To hand out an eight-month ban shows that the FA has no idea what it is doing and smacks of appeasement.
As a Manchester United supporter I obviously hope the appeal result is the former, but as a lover of sport and believer in fair play I would happily accept the latter verdict if the evidence is there.
In the current situation, both Rio and all Man U fans are in a state of purgatory. Is he a victim or a villain? We don't know, and the FA's verdict seems to indicate that it doesn't have a clue either.
Andrew Schofield, Australia
I read with interest your story on Ferdinand and his drug test. As I grew up within 8 miles of Old Trafford I realise how big Man United has become in the last 50 years since I watched the funeral procession of the original Busby Babes.
My main sporting interest these day belongs to cycling... specifically professional road racing. This sport demands an unusually high degree of stamina as events last for up to 6 hours of riding per day and in the case of races like the Tour de France riding almost every day for 3 weeks.
Cycling is the most tested sport in the world. Not only at events but many out of competition tests are given just as in the case of Ferdinand. Not being in attendance or unwilling to participate is tantamount to a guilty charge.
The quote that I found almost laughable was as follows: I don't think there has been a penalty as strict as this one for noncompliance in any sport. Some prominent cyclists in the last few months have been subjected to 1 year suspensions even though they had been tested clean several times, a "dirty" test suddenly turned up with the culprit being nandralone an old fashioned drug and the source of which was taking a contaminated food supplement.
The World Drug Organization and the country's governing cycling body say you should know what you are ingesting - if you can't prove that is not contaminated then don't take it.
Football is just in the infancy in the drug war.
What a complete and utter mess the FA have made of this case. They have bowed to the opinions of Sepp Blatter whose own personal conduct leaves so much to be desired. What is Ferdinand guilty of? He 'forgot' to take a test at the particular time specified. In his defence he offered to take the test later the same day but was denied the opportunity to do so.
I wonder if the same sentence would have been handed down to an Arsenal player in the same circumstances. Not a chance! I sincerely hope that Manchester United take the FA to court over this complete and utter miscarriage of justice.
Blatter's statements are of FIFA regulations and must be obeyed. Ferdinand was guilty of missing a drug test and his punishment is fair and to some extent lenient.
The outcry from Manchester United supporters is thoroughly sickening - believing that they are being targeted. In all honesty, Man Utd are one of the most supported clubs in the world.
What Ferdinand did was appalling and cannot be tolerated - anywhere. Man Utd fans should have a good look at themselves and ask - which is more important, football or the effect of drugs.
Jaap Stam was guilty for taking performance enhancing drugs and was banned for 6 months. Rio missed a drugs test, handed in a negative sample just two days later and got 8 months. While I agree Rio was totally to blame for missing a test and deserves a penalty for that, this punishment is absolutely puzzling considering what Stam got for actually taking drugs.
While many may argue that the penalties meted out for Stam is too light, I was wondering why Sepp Blatter did not give his vitriolic comments to the Italian FA and sanction further punishment for Stam. When you put Rio's case into perspective, it is obvious he is made a target by the FA through the indiscreet handling of the team selection for the Euro qualifier, and Blatter, a politician par excellence, decided to use Rio to beat the anti-drugs campaign drum.
Man United should not appeal, as it will most definitely be met with a stiffer punishment. This case is a fine example of how soccer is being run by a bunch of weak-willed sanctimonious morons.
Well I think in the circumstances Ferdinand can think himself lucky to get away with less than half the maximum sentence possible. However, I think it almost bordering on the ridiculous that he can continue to play pending an appeal and that the sentence doesn't start immediately.
In a court of law the sentence is carried out immediately not "postponed" for 2-3 weeks to allow time for an appeal etc., This system must be reviewed immediately so that cases are dealt with quicker and bans of any kind are not delayed in anyway.
Sadly, I also have a sneaky suspicion that this so called "harsh" sentence maybe a bit of a whitewash just to appease FIFA, and that following the appeal the subsequent punishment will be reduced drastically to maybe a just a heavy fine. Call me cynical but lets just see shall we.
So here we have yet more evidence of the lack of professionalism at the top of the FA. This case wouldn't have stood a chance in a real court of law.It was prejudiced by Sepp Blatter, himself under a cloud of corruption, and Dick Pound, a zealot for whom all are guilty until proven otherwise. Rio was guilty and convicted in the minds of the FA before the hearing took place.
It is right that Man Utd take a stand on this as "Kangaroo Courts" cannot be allowed to establish themselves and disrupt the beautiful game.
By all means check for drugs, that's not an issue, but do it fairly and professionally. It is clear that the way drug samples are collected needs to be improved. Take a random sample in the dressing room pre or post match that way there can be no "forgetting".
International footballers are professionals and should be expected to act that way. There is no excuse for forgetting a professional obligation such as a drugs test. If I forgot to do my professional obligations I would be out of a job...and for sure I wouldn't have the backing of my boss and player's union.
It may be a lot to ask of these young athletes but that is their choice when they enter the professional world. Nobody forces them to become footballers. If they can't even remember to take a drugs test then they deserve what they get.
I can't stand the attitude that these super-rich clubs and players have, this attitude that the rules should apply to someone else, anybody else, but not me.
It is my firm belief that drug taking is destroying sport and with this statement I mean all drug taking. During the last AFL (Aussie Rules) Grand Final we had a team captain receiving pain killing injections without which he could not have played, this apparently is condoned by our sports bodies, but surely this (pain killer) is a performance enhancing drug?
However I also believe that all people, whether a sportsman or not, can and do make mistakes, in this case (if press reports are to be believed) the sportsman realised his mistake and asked to take the test 90 minutes later. This course should have been afforded him and his sample should have been subjected to higher scrutiny and also checked for any masking agents. This action would have satisfied all concerned and the extra testing should have been paid for by the sportsman.
As is always the case anyone defending themselves should be "innocent until proven guilty'. If I were Sepp Blatter (he who reneges firm commitments with the Australasia soccer fraternity) I would be a very worried person, the weight of mighty Man Utd and their legal team should be put to good use and ensure that any statements from "influential" people, and I refer to my last statement about Sepp, are made after any disciplinary hearing an not before.
I hope this matter does not hurt the FA but it is my firm belief that soccer in England is not being best served by the people in charge of it. Bring on Brian Taylor, at least he seems to love soccer for what it is - "the world game" - and knows a little about it, rather than the "suits" with their Business Degree, and very little else.
I welcome this projected stand from FIFA, should Manchester United or Ferdinand himself attempt to drag this whole sorry business out even further by entering an appeal.
The longer it all goes on for then the credibility of English football becomes even more questionable than it already is. Rio Ferdinand has had his trial and he has received his punishment. Unfortunately by wishing to pursue the matter even further Manchester United appear to be suggesting that the club is bigger than the ruling bodies and this cannot be allowed to be the case.
The only person to blame for being in this mess is Rio Ferdinand himself. Only he knows the complete truth as to why he failed to attend the drugs test as instructed. Only he knows whether he had taken some kind of substance which would have implicated him had he taken the test at the correct time or whether he was offering a two-fingered salute to officialdom as he felt he had better things to do at that time than comply with a drugs test.
Rather than make such an issue of the ban of 8 months that has been issued both Ferdinand and Manchester United should be relieved that it falls short of the 2 years that it could well have been. I commend the FA for staying strong on this issue in the face of such strong opposition and threat of counter-claims from Manchester United who are trying to deflect the blame from the guilty party on to others.
I'm confused by Dick Pound's comments as Baseball only fines $10,000 and gives a 15 day suspension for a positive test. Where is the two year ban for them?
Rio was tested clear of drugs two days later, never had a positive test and the two day delay was not Rio's doing. 8 months, he ought to go to the Court of human rights for preventing him from working.
Worst still is FIFA has only follow WADA's rules to get into the Olympics and England don't play that sport in the Olympics do they?
Rio was done in by Blatter's threats to intervene.
Gordon Taylor "felt there was every opportunity for the FA to give him the benefit of the doubt". What doubt? There has never been an argument from Rio Ferdinand that he did not break the rules. There is precisely zero doubt that he missed the drugs test and, logically, an equal amount of benefit to be gleaned.
He is blatantly trying to obfuscate what is clearly an open-and-shut case. FERDINAND BROKE THE RULES!
We all know that the ban will be reduced, on appeal, from 8 to 6 months. Just in time for Euro 2004! Hmmmmm...
Mark Saunders, San Jose, California
I have been a Man Utd fan since the scoreboard end had a big clock in the middle, no seats and no roof!
Rio and the club screwed up. United has to do what is best for the shareholders now, that is for Rio to bend over touch his toes and take it like a man. Meantime, spend a few million on a replacement.
Blatter had a point to make and he is the boss unfortunately. He has made his point. It will be a waste of time fighting this and the whole situation could get worse for Rio and the club.
It's time to get on with it and get over it. Rio will be back, there are World Cup games to be played. Cantona came back strong.
I think that Ferdinand should have been banned the week after the event, any other club would have been made to have their players banned for this. But no! Not Man.Utd.They believe that they can do what they want.
It even goes back a far as 1954-55 season, I believe, when Chelsea won the league and where told if they entered the new Europe Champions competition they would be punished. But when United won the following year they defied the FA and the FA did not do anything about it. Since then United have got away with most things.
It is about time that the FA started to hit back.
As an Arsenal fan, I have about as much love for Man Utd as I do for my mother-in-law. However, I really have to draw a line at Rio Ferdinand.
Whilst it may give an advantage to Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premier League, I personally feel it is a completely unfair advantage. If I understand the case correctly - as big of an issue as Rio missing his test is - the FA's inability to both follow its own rules and procedures, and indeed to have any rules or procedures to follow is to blame.
If Rio phoned Man Utd 25 minutes prior to the testing team leaving, and could have made it back in time, then this whole case is as disgusting as the media circus that has followed it. Anyway, would it really have done any harm for the testing team to have waited an extra 5 minutes anyway? Can a drug leave your system that quickly? I think not.
Once again, a scapegoat has been made due to the politics of football, and that should not please anyone.
I'm English. I live in the States. I've recently heard about NFL players being found guilty of taking banned performance enhancing drugs. They are issued 3 game bans. In the case of baseball players, they are warned that if they're found guilty FIVE times, they'll be dealt with severely.
So, bearing that in mind, I'm just sick and tired of my nation's obsession with being seen to do the right thing - because we're "oh so fair and straight down the line where we come from". Is there any other nation in the world who would a) immediately let this issue leak out into the public arena, then b) ban one of their three best players for a huge international tournament, when the player involved hasn't actually been found guilty of anything other than forgetting to do something?
If the FA wants to get tough with unprofessional behaviour, maybe they should get their testers to stop forgetting to test the players they've been sent to test. Once they've achieved that, they could possibly deal with these situations, as and when they arise, within the four walls of the FA Palace or wherever it is that these upholders the law get together.
Anyway, let's kiss good bye to any chance in Euro 2004. Whoops, Sol's slipped over again.
Tim 'oakwellboy' Ward
I find Mr Blatter's comments very harsh. I think that Mr Blatter, who is believed to be a professional, should also look into the Juventus and Marseille cases where other professional players said they have received injections.
I think the Juventus and Marseille cases are much more serious than the Ferdinand case! Or maybe Mr Blatter's friend Mr Platini asked him to close his eyes on those two issues ?
I am sorry to say that, but the feeling I have is that Mr Blatter is a anti-Man Utd person who is letting his personal feelings overtake his professional duties.
Joël de Baize, Mauritius
Stuff the FA, Sepp Blatter and Dick Pound. Why are we not told about the "huge differences" between this case and the that of Christian Negouai that have lead to the difference in punishments?
Why have players who have actually been found guilty of taking a drug been hit with lighter charges and fines than Rio? Why is Sepp Blatter keeping very quiet indeed about the investigations taking place in Italy about the dominant Juventus side of the 90's and their doping claims? How can an "independent panel" comprise of people from the FA?
As far as I and my other United supporting friends are concerned, if none of our players ever turn out for England again it would be no great loss and Rio will enjoy our full support as long as he stays at Old Trafford. I will wear my Rio shirt with pride!
Richard Jones, Stoke
I have one simple question: how can the FA defend an 8 month ban and £50,000 fine for Rio Ferdinand when Christian Negouai got only a £2,000 fine for missing a drugs test?