England drug abuse allegations dismissed by FA

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The Football Association yesterday described as "spurious" claims that England's Euro 96 players have using an illegal sleeping pill. It was reported that the England players were using a herbal-based sleeping tablet named Melatonin, a drug claimed to be on the Medicine Control Agency's banned list.

Steve Double, a spokesman for the FA, said that the report was inaccurate, misleading and entirely untrue. "We did use a substance called Melatonin during the trip to the Far East last month," he said, "but that was because it is an anti-jetlag pill, something taken by all the British athletes and Continental footballers when they go on long-haul flights.

"It is purely used to combat jetlag, although I understand it's used as an anti-ageing drug in the US," Double added, "but it isn't a sleeping tablet, and nobody is using it now."

The FA and the police are also investigating the theft of about 1,000 Euro 96 Anfield quarter-final tickets, worth about pounds 50,000, which were stolen from a tour operator's car in Birmingham on Tuesday. "The tickets have already been cancelled and will not be reissued," Chief Inspector David Wilson, of Merseyside Police, said. "Any fans found with these tickets will not be allowed into the ground and could face police action."

Sunderland's ambitious bid to sign the Bulgarian Euro 96 midfielder, Yordan Lechkov, may end in failure. The Hamburg player now seems likely to move to Marseille for pounds 1.5m. The newly promoted French club are also keen on Everton's Swedish winger Anders Limpar, also available at pounds 1.5m, and Celtic's Scotland full-back Tom Boyd, who is out of contract.

Another Swede, Leeds United's Tomas Brolin, is the subject of a pounds 3.5m bid from the Italian Serie A club Sampdoria, who have many millions of lire to spend following the pounds 9m sale of Enrico Chiesa to Parma, Brolin's former club. Brolin has had an unhappy time at Leeds and the club will cut their losses on a move originally estimated at a record pounds 4.75m.

Gary Speed, the Leeds and Wales midfielder, is expected to complete his pounds 3.5m move to Everton tomorrow, despite a late approach from Newcastle. Leicester City hope to sign Millwall's England Under-21 international left-back, Ben Thatcher, in a pounds 1.5m deal this week.

The Italian Serie A side Napoli made a complaint to Fifa, world football's governing body, yesterday about the conduct of Croatia's Euro 96 forward, Goran Vlaovic. He allegedly signed a contract in March to move from Padova to Napoli next season, but then apparently signed another contract with the Spanish club, Valencia, earlier this month.