FA suspend drug abuser for one year

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The Independent Online

The Association yesterday demonstrated its determination to be tough on drug abuse by imposing a one-year suspension on the first player to be caught using a banned substance to enhance his performance on the pitch.

Roger Stanislaus, a 27-year-old Leyton Orient defender, was caught by one of the post-match random drug tests the FA has been carrying out for two seasons. His sample, taken after Orient lost to Barnet 3-0 in an Endsleigh League Third Division match in November, showed up cocaine, which the player claimed he had used on a social basis on the Thursday before the game.

However, in evidence to yesterday's three-hour disciplinary hearing at Lancaster Gate, Dr David Cowans, director of the Drugs Control Centre at King's College, Chelsea, said the test result was consistent with a dose of cocaine being taken between one and six hours prior to the test. For that amount to have remained in his system for two days, he said that Stanislaus would have to have taken a fatal dose on the preceding Thursday.

An FA spokesman, Steve Double, said: "The FA has a clear responsibility to protect other professionals from players under the influence of drugs. Players who use performance- enhancing drugs also cheat fellow professionals who do not use stimulants."

That attitude was reflected in the suspension, which is four months longer than the ban the FA gave Eric Cantona for kicking a fan. It is the toughest FA punishment of a player for 30 years.

Yesterday's decision was backed by Orient's chairman, Barry Hearn, and the players' union, who attended the hearing.

Stanislaus did not comment on the outcome, but Hearn, the snooker and boxing promoter, expressed his and his club's total opposition to any form of drug use or abuse in society or sport. He said the club's board would meet on Tuesday to decide what action it would be taking against their player.

Brendan Batson, the assistant secretary of the Professional ers' Association, supported Stanislaus but he also said: "There is no place for drugs in football. This is a serious case and is reflected in the punishment."

Stanislaus, a former apprentice at Arsenal, is not the first player caught using drugs. Last season there were 12 positive results from 272 tests, but all followed either use of medication or social drug-abuse. Stanislaus is the first to be accused of using drugs to boost performance.

His claim that his positive test also followed social use of the drug was undermined by Dr Cowans' uncontested evidence that for that to be true Stanislaus "would have to have taken a lethal dose of more than a kilogram of cocaine" on the Thursday.

That evidence ruled out the FA showing the sort of leniency shown to Paul Merson and Chris Armstrong, who were given education and rehabilitation.

Of last season's failures, eight were for cannabis, two for innocently taken cold cures and two for amphetamine use.

However, Michele Verroken, the Sports Council's drug expert, said in her evidence that only one or two per cent of tests in all sports are positive. "But indications are that the figures for 1995 will be higher. Whether that is because we are becoming more efficient, or athletes are more prepared to take the risks, one cannot say."