Judge boosts Wales' Euro 2004 hopes

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The Independent Football

Welsh hopes of a place in the Euro 2004 finals have been boosted by one of the judges who could hear the case at an independent arbitration.

Welsh hopes of a place in the Euro 2004 finals have been boosted by one of the judges who could hear the case at an independent arbitration.

The FA of Wales, having twice been rebuffed by Uefa's disciplinary committees, have launched a final appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland in the dispute over the Russian Igor Titov's failed drugs test. The grounds for this third - and binding - appeal, are that they were not allowed to speak at the Uefa hearing or present medical evidence.

Ian Blackshaw, one of 155 judges who could sit on the hearing panel, said: "It does seem to me that the FAW has been treated unfairly. If Wales were not allowed to cross-examine the Uefa witnesses, then there is a case for saying that the right to be heard has not been respected, so there has been a breach of the rules of natural justice."

The FAW's case is based on their belief that the midfielder - who failed a test for the stimulant bromantan after the first leg of their Euro 2004 play-off in Moscow in November - was still under the influence of the substance when he played in Russia's 1-0 win in the second leg in Cardiff four days later.

Russia are due to play their first fixture in the competition on 12 June and Blackshaw says a decision could be reached in less than a month's time.

"Under the rules there is provision for expedited hearings because the dynamics of sport dictate that these cases need to be heard fairly quickly," he said.

"The CAS is geared to doing that and I would think the procedure would move very quickly. In that case there should be a decision well in time to make any changes to Euro 2004."

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