10-01-2004, 06:42 PM
Rio Ferdinand, one of the top players in the world's most high profile team sport, has been given an eight month suspension following his failure to take a drug test three months ago. Recent reports suggest he may accept rather than appeal this suspension. Read more at Foxsports and at physioroom.com. Although this hearing was farcical in the length of time that it took to occur and that Ferdinand continued to play for Manchester united whilst under charge, it signals a coming of age for the Football Association in terms of being tough on drug use. There are many analogies with the Shane Warne suspension in cricket, in that both of these players are superstars who appeared to be guilty not necessarily of trying to obtain a performance enhancement but instead of disregard for the importance of the drug code in their respective sports. In the Warne case, although he was guilty of taking a masking agent, most neutral observers believe that he was probably not trying to mask illicit drug use but that he arrogantly ignored warnings given to all players about checking tablets that were not prescribed by team medical officials. The Ferdinand case is similar in that there is only a very small likelihood that the player was avoiding a test because of the presence of a significant performance enhancing agent, but it is beyond doubt that he had complete disrespect for the drug testing process by 'forgetting' to attend a test after training. Both of these players have now been made sacrificial lambs, but for the greater good, in that all players, whether they are champions or fringe players, must at all times show respect for the drug testing process. In the Ferdinand case, the FA should not be absolved of blame and needs a strong reprimand for their drug testers ever letting a player out of their sight. The fight to make sporting bodies treat the drug issue seriously continues - an example is illustrated below, where the International Rugby Board officially outlaws local anaesthetic injections but does not test for their use, which probably leads to the law being widely flaunted and undermines the IRB's doping code.