Ferdinand's appeal time extended by detail request

Manchester United have requested written clarification from the Football Association of the reasons behind Rio Ferdinand's eight-month ban, following official notification yesterday of the punishment for the player's missed drugs test.

United's request on his behalf is in line with FA regulations but will prolong the length of time Ferdinand has to appeal against his suspension. Because of the Christmas holidays, United do not expect a reply until early next week. It is only when that response is sent that the 14-day appeal period begins.

If the reply is issued on Monday as anticipated, the 25-year-old defender will have to decide by 12 January - the day his ban is due to start - whether he is going to contest the suspension. When the ban was announced last Friday, the club director and solicitor Maurice Watkins said an appeal was "inevitable".

Ferdinand's place in the United line-up in the short term is secure but as it stands, his last match this season would be against Newcastle at Old Trafford on 11 January.

Providing the player lodges his appeal during the first full week of the New Year, his hearing, chaired by an independent QC, is likely to be heard at the beginning of February.

Fifa, football's world governing body, yesterday announced a 14-month ban for the Egyptian Amir Azmy, who tested positive for nandrolone during the World Youth Championship earlier this month in the United Arab Emirates. Azmy's ban began retrospectively on 9 December, meaning that he cannot play again until 8 February, 2005.

Fifa also handed a seven-month ban to Germany's Alexander Walke, who tested positive for a metabolite of cannabis at the same tournament. Walke's suspension runs from 9 December this year to 8 July, 2004. He was fined £4,500.

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