Kolo Touré's Manchester City career was effectively saved last night when an FA Commission handed him a six-month suspension for taking a banned substance – his wife's dietary water tablets.
The ban is backdated to 2 March, the date of the 30-year-old's provisional suspension after the presence of the tablets was detected in a routine test. That means that Touré, who cannot train with City during the period of the ban, may return to the side as early as 2 September.
He could miss only four or five games, including the Community Shield on 7 August and City's first few games of the next Premier League campaign, which starts six days later. Though the club's manager, Roberto Mancini, may seek to strengthen in central defence this summer, a longer ban could have made the pursuit of a replacement for the Ivorian essential.
City's QC Adam Lewis, of Blackstone Chambers, attempted to argue before the Independent Regulatory Commission at Wembley that Touré, who admitted the offence, should not be suspended for more than three months – and thus be entitled to return to the fold on the pre-season tour of the United States.
But the Commission's chairman, Christopher Quinlan QC, criticised Touré's failure to establish that the water tablets, being used by his wife, Awo, might contain a banned substance before taking them.
"The player accepted he was at fault and with that concession we agree," Quinlan found. "He was at fault in the limited and perfunctory efforts he made in relation to the water tablets; the checks he made in relation to those tablets were inadequate and fell some way below what it would be reasonable to expect of a professional footballer in these circumstances."
The penalty would have been a minimum two years had the Commission been satisfied that Touré had attempted to enhance his sporting achievement or mask the use of a performance-enhancing substance. Water tablets can contain diuretics, which are banned because they can be used to hide the presence of performance-enhancing drugs. When the cricketer Shane Warne tested positive for diuretics, before the 2003 World Cup, he said he had no idea the substances were present in slimming pills given to him by his mother, but he still received a one-year ban.
But the commission accepted Touré's claim that he had not been attempting to enhance his performance and attempts at weight control do not constitute such an offence. The timing of the hearing at the start of the summer break has been the best City could have hoped for.
"This has been a difficult period for me and I am sad to have missed the team's triumph of securing Champions League football for Manchester City and also the FA Cup," Touré said in a club statement last night.Reuse content