Football: New drug scandal rocks Italy

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ITALIAN NEWSPAPERS reported yesterday that a positive drug test on a Serie A player was covered up.

Random tests were done on four players after the Roma against Udinese game on 4 January. One Udinese player reportedly tested positive - but the laboratory allegedly altered the test results.

The report comes just two days after the head of the Italian Olympic Committee, Mario Pescante, resigned amid growing criticism that drug tests were not conducted properly.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper claimed that the chemist who had handled the Roma v Udinese tests has talked to the prosecutor looking into alleged drug use by football players, Raffaele Guariniello. The chemist alleged that his superior had ordered him to alter the test results.

The Udinese players that underwent the post-game tests were Francesco Statuto and Alessandro Calori. Udinese won the game 2-1. "This all seems strange to me; the situation is absurd," Statuto said yesterday. "My conscience is clear."

The urine tests were performed at laboratory designated by the Italian Olympic Committee, which oversees Italy's anti-doping program. It is on the outskirts of Rome.

There have been a series of doping investigations this year into Italian athletes. One investigation, done for the Olympic Committee's doping commission, ended in August without finding evidence of illegal drug use, but did find that the use of legal muscle-builders is widespread.

Udinese's general manager, Pierpaolo Marino, said yesterday: "To say we are astounded would be putting it mildly. Someone wants to throw mud at our team."

The Italian football federation said it knew nothing about "a presumed case of positive testing". It rejected the paper's assertion it was party to "a system aimed at making anti-doping controls carried out [by its laboratory] inefficient".

The federation said it had instructed its lawyers to take legal action against the journalist who wrote the story and the editor of the newspaper if no wrong-doing was discovered.