Couto to appeal against drugs ban

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The Independent Football

The Portugal international Fernando Couto is to appeal against a 10-month ban which was imposed yesterday by Italy's sporting Federal Court of Appeal.

Couto, who plays for Lazio, was suspended on 27 April after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone following a Serie A match against Fiorentina in January. But his lawyer, Ugo Longo, confirmed they are to contest the sentence after two Perugia players, the defender Salvatore Monaco and striker Cristian Bucchi, had their bans reduced from 16 months to eight months by the same court.

"The ban has been harsher than those placed on the two Perugia players," Longo said. "This is partly due to the strong appeal from their club. We will appeal also."

Couto's ban will run from the date he was suspended, and he must also pay a 100m lira (£31,500) fine.

The former Bari goalkeeper Jean François Gillet and the Piacenza midfielder Stefano Sachetti were also banned for 10 months, while Sachetti's team-mate Nicola Caccia was suspended for eight months. All three, who had been suspended last season pending a definitive sentence, were also fined 50m lira.

Steaua Bucharest are planning to field their new signing Adrian Neaga in a Champions' League qualifier next week, despite his positive test for the banned anabolic steroid metenolone.

Under Romanian league rules, Neaga, an attacking midfielder, and his former team-mate Cristian Buturuga should have been banned for a year after both players tested positive for the steroid in May. But despite pressure from the Romanian sports ministry to crack down on doping, the league have not yet suspended the pair, who are the first Romanian footballers to fail a drugs test.

The league have appealed to the Romanian Football Federation not to impose the ban, even though the B samples of both players also revealed traces of the banned substance. Neaga and Buturuga have protested their innocence, denying that they knowingly took the steroid.

Real Mallorca have signed the Cameroon international striker Samuel Eto'o from Real Madrid for a club-record fee of 1,200m pesetas (£4.4m).

Eto'o, who has been with Mallorca on loan from Real Madrid for the last two seasons, becomes the Balearic Island club's most expensive player after he signed a six-year contract. Mallorca's president, Mateo Alemany, said that the Cameroon striker, who was the club's top scorer last season with 11 goals, was a player all the fans wanted to see stay at the club. "I doubt if there is any other player in the world who would please the fans more at this moment," he said.

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