Football: Player's decade of drugs

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THE CAPTAIN of Berwick Rangers admitted yesterday that he has been playing football with a drug problem for more than a decade.

Martin Neil said he has decided to speak openly about his problem in an attempt to salvage his career. The 29-year-old claims that at no time in his spell with the Scottish Third Division club has he been drug-tested, but wishes he had been. Neil said he has taken amphetamines, LSD and cocaine, and fears his addiction will kill him.

"I have been told that if I play football again under the influence of drugs I could end up having a heart attack on the pitch," he said. "I know I have a problem and I need to get it sorted out. I have let down so many people - my family, my team-mates, managers, backroom staff and directors of the club, but now I want help and want to stop. My lifestyle is out of hand and I fear it could kill me."

Neil once had a brief spell with Dundee United but failed to make the grade and also disappointed in trials for Bolton and Newcastle.

The player said he is unsure how Berwick will react to his revelations in a Scottish newspaper, but emphasised that his priority is placing the problem of drugs in the spotlight.

"Now this is out in the open some of the people at the club might put their arm around me, others might not want to speak with me," he said. "Right now I never want to see another drug in my life. I have even taken drugs in the dressing room 20 minutes before a match. It was a good few years ago and I paid the price - I started the match on speed and ended it on crutches."

The Scottish Football Association defended its testing procedure yesterday. Its spokesman, Andy Mitchell, said: "It is perfectly possible that a player goes through his entire career without undergoing a drugs test because of the random nature of testing.

"But the testing we have in place is long-established and has been run in conjunction with the Scottish Sports Council for the past 16 years, carried out on a random basis through the season through all the divisions.

"It is the same process as Uefa and Fifa adopt at their matches, and we take care to ensure the surprise element is maintained with the observer always arriving after kick-off."