Taylor warns of rift over Ferdinand

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The Independent Football

Rio Ferdinand's drugs case could force the Professional Footballers' Association to pull out of their official testing programme with UK Sport.

The Manchester United defender faces a two-day hearing in Bolton, starting on Thursday, to establish why he failed to take a test on September 23.

Despite his insistence that he merely forgot to attend the test, it is widely anticipated he will receive a three-month suspension. However, claims that United have discussed the matter with the Football Association and have decided only to appeal if the player is banned for longer have been denied.

United have continually insisted Ferdinand is guilty of nothing more than absent-mindedness and a senior club official said yesterday that no bargaining has taken place and the player will be staunchly defended.

United's stance has been backed by the PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, who believes his name should never have been made public, and the PFA are treating the matter so seriously they are threatening to pull out of all official tests with UK Sport, who they believe have acted inappropriately.

"Rio Ferdinand has been presumed guilty before he has been given a chance to prove his innocence," Taylor said. "The whole world now thinks he's going to get a three-month suspension. How can he get a fair hearing under those circumstances?

"If this situation occurs again, we will pull out of the testing procedure. If the PFA had been represented, we would have made certain Rio had taken the test."

Meanwhile, the FA chief executive Mark Palios said he was confident Sepp Blatter will not intervene in the matter. The FIFA president has questioned the validity of the Premiership points United have gained since September 23, but Palios said: "We are applying the rules and regulations that we have and it will be entirely unprecedented for FIFA to intervene. As a consequence we believe they won't intervene."

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