Football: FA wants Petit to back up drug claims

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THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION wants Emmanuel Petit to "name names" following his allegations that players were taking drugs in order to withstand the pressures of the modern game. The Arsenal midfielder fears the problem is likely to escalate if players are made to play more games which, with the expansion of the Champions' League next season, is a near-certainty for the bigger clubs. However the FA said yesterday that Petit would not be called before them "at this stage".

The FA and the Sports Council are confident that drug-taking is not a serious problem in English football, though the number of random test will be doubled to 1,000 next season. "If he [Petit] has evidence we would like to hear it," the FA's spokesman, Steve Double, said. "However, recent test results do not back that up."

Nowhere in yesterday's story in The Mirror did Petit say he was talking about the English game in particular. Nor did he say whether the drugs being used by his fellow professionals were performance-enhancing, recreational or anti-inflammatory ones.

Petit is a well known critic of the number of games played in English football. "If the present number of games continues, something is going to have to give," he was reported as saying. "We will all have to take drugs to survive. Some footballers already do. I know that. But I am not going to give any names."

Zdenek Zeman, the Roma coach, caused a furore in Italy last season when he claimed drug usage was widespread in Serie A, although he was believed to be talking about substances like creatine, which are not illegal. Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, wants Petit to explain himself.

"If Petit is talking about the steroid-type drugs that, for example, cyclists in the Tour de France have been using to get through the stress then they would be illegal," Taylor said.