Football: French players suspended after failing drug tests

Three French players, including two internationals, have failed drug tests this season, the national federation said yesterday. Claude Simonet, the federation president, confirmed reports in the sports daily l'Equipe about the three cases, but suggested so-called recreational drugs were involved and that there was no evidence to suggest players were trying to cheat.

Bordeaux's reserve goalkeeper, Franck Fontan, was suspended for two months on Thursday, but no action has yet been taken against the other two players - Fabien Barthez and Stephane Paille - pending the results of B sample tests.

Simonet declined to say which drugs were involved. "There are two separate problems. There are players who try to enhance their performances and others who are victims of a habit of using banned substances," he said. "There is no widespread taking of performance-enhancing substances here. I don't think we are talking about cheats in these cases."

Barthez, who failed his test after a league match in Nantes on 3 October, refused to comment. The Monaco goalkeeper, who won the European Cup with Marseille two years ago, is currently second choice behind Bernard Lama in the national team.

Paille, a much-travelled international striker who has played for Porto in Portugal and Servette in Switzerland, retired from the sport after failing a test on 23 September, following a Second Division game with Niort, but he told l'Equipe his retirement was due to serious personal problems.

Simonet said the B sample tests requested by both players had been taken and that the results were expected this week.

Fontan was found to be positive after the Bordeaux v Montpellier match on 22 September, when he was selected for a random test even though he was only on the substitutes' bench.

Alain Afflelou, the Bordeaux president, said Fontan would not be paid for the two months of his suspension. "It's unacceptable," he said. "I take this very badly because when you're 21 and a professional, you should be careful. By letting himself go at a party, he's penalised the team and damaged the reputation of the club."

Last year, another French player, Stephane Ziani of Bastia, was handed a one-month suspended ban after failing a drug test while playing for Nantes. Simonet said he was alarmed by the trend. "I think we're going to have to start a campaign to encourage players to protect their health," he said. "I'm giving this some thought. We'll tackle the problem in the new year."

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