Drug-test failure upsets build-up to World Cup

The Lincoln Financial World Cup has had to cope with a drugs controversy five days before the start of the tournament with the news that the Lebanese captain, Darren Marroon, had failed a test.

The Lincoln Financial World Cup has had to cope with a drugs controversy five days before the start of the tournament with the news that the Lebanese captain, Darren Marroon, had failed a test.

Marroon tested positive for ephedrine after a match for his club, the Sydney Bulls, in the Metropolitan Cup competition earlier this year.

His case has been heard by a three-man tribunal, including the former Australian captain, Dr George Peponis, which has accepted his explanation that he took the banned substance unwittingly in a sports drink.

Marroon, Lebanon's most experienced forward as well as their captain, flew out with the rest of the squad yesterday and is due to arrive in London today.

The indications are that the Australian Rugby League's verdict will be the end of the matter, although Greg McCallum, who as the Rugby League's director of rugby has overall charge of the tournament, said it could possibly be taken even further.

"If a player has tested positive, the ARL will initially have had to deal with it, although it could still become a matter for the International Federation," he said.

There will be a programme of random testing during the World Cup, just as there was at the last tournament in 1995, when the New Zealand hooker, Syd Eru, tested positive for the banned drug ephedrine.

The largely Sydney-based Lebanese side are no strangers to controversy. They were warned about their conduct after a car-park fight that put the American winger, Tony Fabri, in hospital after the qualifying match between the two countries last November and their coach, John Elias, was refused entry to America because of a previous firearms conviction.

Victory in that game put the Lebanon into a group with Wales, New Zealand and the Cook Islands - with the Kiwis being their first opponents at Gloucester on Sunday.

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