Rio: Taylor calls for fair play

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The Independent Football

Gordon Taylor has urged Rio Ferdinand's appeal panel to maintain an objective stance on his missed drugs test - but the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive is not holding his breath.

Ferdinand surprised many observers on Friday when he announced his intention to fight his eight-month ban, while at the same time beginning his suspension on Tuesday as planned.

In taking this unusual course of action, the Man-chester United defender, who played at Wolves yesterday, is banking on a reduction in the punishment which, at the very least, would allow him to play a part in United's pre-season campaign. And it raises the possibility that he could still appear for England in this summer's Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.

The 25-year-old still maintains that pure forgetfulness was the only reason he failed to take the test at United's Carrington training ground on 23 September. Taylor thinks so too, and continues to insist the punishment inflicted on Ferdinand is draconian. But, because the case has attracted a blaze of publicity, the PFA chief does not hold out much hope of Ferdinand receiving a fair judgement second time around either.

"The case has been sullied by the attention it has got," he said. "The whole thing has been blown out of all proportion. The eyes of the world are on the FA and it has not been possible to look at the case in an objective manner, that is why the penalty was so high in the first place.

"I would sincerely hope the appeals panel would be more objective and the suspension will be reduced, but in this situation who can tell?"

When his legal team lodge the appeal with the FA tomorrow, Ferdinand knows he is gambling that the suspension will not be increased. The new three-man commission, which will be headed by a QC who has no ties to the FA, has the power to triple the current sentence to two years, in line with the punishment that would be meted out in most other sports. However, Taylor feels Ferdinand has been made an example of and that the FA's point has already been made. Now he is hoping clear heads will prevail.

"The FA are obviously trying to ensure this situation never arises again," he said. "It's pretty safe to say they have achieved that aim. Unfortunately, Rio is the one paying the price. Nobody said he wasn't guilty of not taking the test, but I have yet to be convinced of the argument that someone should receive a greater punishment for missing one than they should for failing one."

The conciliatory nature of the statements released by Ferdinand and United's chief executive, David Gill, were at odds with the previously aggressive tone of their defence. It has previously been suggested that if the Old Trafford club had admitted some culpability earlier, the final punishment would not have been nearly so harsh, and it now appears that they have accepted this argument.

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