Ferdinand facing threat of Euro 2004 ban

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Rio Ferdinand's failure to take a drugs test could cost him his place in next summer's European Championship after Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, the game's governing body, yesterday threatened to increase any punishment handed down to the player by the Football Association.

Ferdinand, who failed to take the test on 23 September, will finally have his case heard on 18-19 December. Blatter is furious both at the delay and that Ferdinand has continued to play.

Speaking after yesterday's meeting of Fifa's executive committee, he said it had given him "a mandate to be strict, stricter than before, and to act. Otherwise we run the risk of seeing football lose its path, the path it should follow as a game and a value in life".

He added: "The FA's decision will be considered by a special commission on doping cases. A suspension of the player should have been indicated and the matter dealt with in a week."

There is, at present, no special commission on doping cases, which suggests any such body now created will follow Blatter's direction. Ferdinand is already likely to be banned until April and possibly later if Manchester United appeal against the FA's decision. Should Blatter increase any ban on Ferdinand, United are likely to prolong the issue further by going to the Court of Arbitration in Sport in Lausanne or the English courts.

The latter option would infuriate Blatter, who prefers football to conduct its discipline internally. He is already clearly spoiling to make an example of Ferdinand, Manchester United and an FA he has still not forgiven for attempting to unseat him last year.

"A minimum of respect must occur in big football," he added. "That does not just mean players but also clubs, leagues and national associations." Of David Gill, United's chief executive who described Blatter's previous comments on Ferdinand as "incomprehensible", he said: "He was confronted by a president who suddenly wants to bring order and discipline in football."

Blatter added: "If a playerhas not accepted to undergo doping control, he shall be considered as non-eligible as long as his case is not treated."

Blatter said he had spoken to Geoff Thompson, the FA chairman, and told him "such cases must be dealt with immediately ­ you cannot push them to tomorrow, the day after and whenever".

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