Football: Maradona 'hoped to test positive'

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The Independent Online

Diego Maradona has said he wanted to fail his drug tests while playing for the Italian club Napoli in a desperate effort to get help and treat his addiction. "In Napoli, drugs were everywhere," he said. "They practically brought it to me on a tray."

In the second installment of an interview with an Argentinian magazine, Gente, Maradona said he "hoped to test positive because it was the only way I found to ask for help and to return".

In the first installment, Maradona discussed his drug problem at length. "I was, I am and I always be a drug addict," he said.

The player first tested positive for cocaine following a league game in 1991 and was suspended for 15 months. By his own admission, he had been using drugs since 1982, when he was 22.

Maradona, 35, related that in Naples he had been a favourite of the camorra, as the Neapolitan mafia is called, "not because I was pretty or good, but because I made the people happy, the same people that maybe they exploited".

He went on to explain that drugs made him miss many happy moments in his life. "I missed many of my [two] daughters' birthdays because I was so drugged that I was unable to enjoy them," he said. "I missed nights with Claudia that I will never recover because I locked myself up and wouldn't come out."

Maradona's wife, Claudia Villafane, interviewed for the first time, said she found out about his drug habit in 1984, at a party to celebrate his transfer from the Spanish club, Barcelona, to Napoli.

"It was a party at our pool that lasted until three, four, five in the morning," she said. "I noticed what the other guests were doing. That's when everything began for me."

She said they only began to talk about the problem in Naples "when people came at two or three in the morning to bring him things".

Claudia said that "once or twice I thought of letting him go to hell. But he's the man I love, and I'm not about to leave him when he needs me most".

Maradona's decision to talk about his cocaine problem coincided with the launching of a government campaign against drug use by young people called "Sun Without Drugs".

Dinamo Bucharest, seeking to return to the top in Romanian football, appointed Marian Bondrea as first-team coach yesterday. Bondrea, 44, was not first choice to fill the job vacated by Remus Vlad, who resigned two months ago after a poor year for a club accustomed to vying with Steaua for the top honours.

Dinamo had originally wanted Ion Moldovan, a former trainer with the club who was sacked in January 1995 and who now coaches the Libyan team Al Etehad, with whom he is under contract until next summer.

"Dinamo cannot afford to wait," the club president, Cornel Dinu, said. Bondrea was trainer of FC National until late last year.

Before 1989 Dinamo were run by the communist-era militia. Now owned by the interior ministry, Dinamo are traditional rivals of the army-owned Steaua Bucharest, who won last season's First Division title. Dinamo were fourth.

Pele said yesterday that he was stepping down as a director of his former club, Santos, less than a month after helping them to one of their most successful seasons of the past two decades.

Pele, who is also the Brazilian government's sports minister, said he was leaving because he did not have enough time for both jobs, but also hinted that he was upset over the departure of the coach, Cabralzinho, last week.