England have left Rio Ferdinand out of the squad for the crucial Euro 2004 qualifier on Saturday because he 'forgot' to take a drugs test.
The Manchester United defender was selected by representatives of UK Sport to take a random drugs test on September 23 at the club's Carrington training ground, but left before the test could be taken.
He took, and passed, a test 36 hours later but the FA have opted to leave him out of the England squad until the issue is properly resolved. [+]
Once again the FA have shot themselves in the foot. By axing arguably their best defender days before England's most crucial match in over two years, they have handed over free a massive psychological boost to the Turks.
The FA continue to demonstrate increasing symptoms of extreme paranoia that they must show the world that they, and they alone, stand exalted as the custodians of morality and fair play.
If governed by courts of law Ferdinand would be interviewed, charged if suspected, and given ample time to prepare his defence. Instead the FA have virtually found him guilty without trial, suspended him from international duty, and played into the hands of a feared adversary.
If Ferdinand is guilty of a transgression, then he deserves to be punished to a level in keeping with his offence within an appropriate time scale. To publicly lynch him in such a manner the FA as a body are themselves far more guilty than the individual.
In a stroke they have both abused his human right to defend himself, and at the same time put at risk the national team's future in the European Championships. Is this really an organisation to run our national game?
Terry Harris, Geneva
The PFA is stepping out of its bounds in this case. True he hasn't been found guilty of anything just yet. But the English FA has every right to take precaution against fielding an illegal player in such a crucial fixture.
Throwing Rio in without first clarifying this issue, will only mean the loss of any result England might achieve, jeopardizing their chances of qualifying for the next phase.
The FA has not charged him with anything yet, but have merely indicated that he had failed to take a mandatory drug test. Though the FA is being accused of not acting appropriately in this matter, a large part of the blame must fall on the player himself for not fulfilling his responsibility as a professional.
I just wanted to say that this is so typical of what happens when you have people who know nothing about football running football. If Rio's test had been positive than so be it, but it wasn't ? he just missed an appointment.
So why is our Football Association depriving us of arguably our best defender before the most important game since the World Cup quarter final against Brazil?
Because they are a bunch of morons who obviously have no passion for the game and evidently don't understand ours.
Justin Lubbock, Toronto, Canada (via London)
I totally agree with the FA's stance on Rio Ferdinand. Its is not a question of whether he had or had not taken drugs. The whole point is that he did not present himself when ordered to do so for a routine drugs test. Of that he is guilty, there is no doubt.
As to Beckham et al threatening to walk out, let them go and suspend them from ever playing professional football again. David Beckham may well be the best and most exciting footballer since Alfredo Di Stefano, Ference Puskas, Pele, Bobby Charlton etc.
He is however a paid servant of football and if that's his/their attitude to an FA decision I stand four square behind the FA which is more important than any group of professional footballers.
Football needs cleaning up and this seems to be the ideal starting point. Well done the FA.
I just read en email with the title "Only in America" with a few statements about things which only can happen in America. Only in England, I must say, such an incredible thing can happen.
Before one of the most vital games in recent history England weakens itself because the FA forced their best defender out of the team. After the game they will have to sack their coach for all the wrong reasons. It's clear to me that Turkey will give the English team hell and sent them home with their heads down.
Don't get me wrong, I can't tell if Rio would have failed that test, but I think he's innocent until the contrary is proven.
Still sitting here and can't believe it...only in England.......
I feel this story is of a ground breaking nature. The FA have handled the matter with the respect the player has shown them, and in any other sport where drug testing is in place, an instant ban would be in place for anyone "forgetting" to attend.
I read the Manchester United statement, and for them to say that they believe the decision is wrong to omitt Rio from the England squad, is a very bad move.
Why were Manchester United not mentioned by the FA? Surely they have a responsibility to make sure the four samples were taken on the correct date. Are they not in breach also?
England FA are like my country Zimbabwe's ZIFA. We always shoot ourselves in the foot before crucial matches.
When they needed the intelligence and stamina of both Ferdinand and Sol Campbell against the combative Turks, they choose to suspend Ferdinand and haul Campbell before a seemingly bigoted FA Disciplinary panel.
Wish them the best of luck in Instanbul, because England certainly now needs it more than Turkey.
England are being extremely hard on Ferdinand, and on themselves, by dropping him. Banning him further would be absolute insanity. Ferdinand and Campbell are the best central defensive partnership England has had for many years.
He missed a drug test? so what? England may miss the European championships as a result of such a decision.
I hope the FA will act in accordance with the rules on this matter and punish him accordingly. The only reason he has not already been charged is because he plays for Manchester United, who appear to be the FA's choice as ambassadors for English football.
Rules are made to be adhered to, ask Jaap Stam for example. If this was a player from Arsenal or Chelsea for example, would we still be feeling sorry for the player in question? I think not!
I also think that the club should also take some of the responsibility, as I cannot believe that a club of Man Utd's stature does not have a member of medical staff whose job it is to ensure that all tests like this are carried out at the correct times.
Here we go again - men in 3-piece suits making massive decisions on subjects they know nothing about! Mark Palios should be fired, with immediate effect, for his arrogance.
Or perhaps he should be given the drug test, as nobody in their right mind would make such a cock up.
Cedric Gillott, Canada
The rules are there to protect the game. If somebody flaunts the rule they should be punished. If one was stopped by the police and refused a breath test the punishment is the same as being over the limit, ignorance is no defence.
I have read with great disbelief that Rio Ferdinand will miss the most important game for England for a long time. How can the FA handle this situation with a total lack of professionalism?
Ferdinand missed the drugs test over two weeks ago so why didn't the FA deal with it immediately? Why wait until now to reveal he would not be selected?
This has put the whole English teams preparation for the match in jeopardy & it's totally the fault of the FA. Time the FA put their house in order first, before they condemn others.
The treatment of Rio Ferdinand is quite disgraceful. If in the course of time he is found guilty, then he should be punished accordingly, but not now.
The FA decision is knee-jerk and quite clearly influenced by the timing of a major fixture. If there were no international on Saturday, would Rio Ferdinand have been prevented from playing for Manchester United? I think not.
Another major issue, which "conveniently" has not mentioned by the FA is that there has been a fundamental breakdown in testing procedures, for which you cannot just blame the player. What sort of testing system allows this to happen? Players should be accompanied by testing officials until the required samples have been provided.
It appears to me that the FA is run by individuals who have little or no accountability to anyone apart from themselves, which is why we are in this ridiculous situation in the first place.
Good luck to the rest of the England players. If we get the right result on Saturday, it will be in spite of the FA, not because of them.
Paul Andrew, Blackpool
The FA (decently in my opinion) gave Rio the chance to explain himself on Sunday, and Sven delayed naming the squad to account for that. What are we to make of the fact that Rio and Man U 'declined' to attend?
Here was the chance to clear it up, maybe accept a fine, apologise. Are we to think that Rio and his 'advisers' (and those who sneer at the FA should perhaps reserve their contempt for these unaccountable vested interests who 'steer' players for their own reasons) didn't attend in the belief that the FA wouldn't dare suspend Rio before a crucial match?
I am afraid the whole thing reeks of an unprofessional and arrogant attitude amongst the players who believe they are above the laws and rules. 'Forgetting' to give a sample is either stupidity or evasion, and is a poor if not ridiculous excuse which is barely credible, when the testers were waiting for him at the training ground.
Would he have 'forgotten' if Ferguson was waiting to see him?
Let's just pretend Rio's injured - it could have happened - in which case England would have got on with the job and probably achieve the desired result. He is not irreplacable. And in the meantime the players might reflect upon their professional responsibilities and duties and stop whining.
The FA, PFA and Manchester United are all incredibly inept in this situation. According to all reports I've seen, the testers asked for "four international players" to provide a urine sample; surely any of them would do as well as Ferdinand.
Man U should have taken the steps to ensure that Ferdinand should have been there to pee in a cup if his name was specifically mentioned. The fact that Ferdinand still had a negative test result means he should still be in the England squad.
Mark Palios is a complete idiot for throwing out Ferdinand of the England squad despite a clean urine sample. He's trying to show that he's trying to clean up the sport but using vigilante justice. Where did he learn his management skills from, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig?
Come to your senses, fine Ferdinand, put him back in the squad, then fire Palios, and find someone who does know something about football.
David Rutledge, Talbott, TN