FA to bring drug testing up to Olympic standards

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The Independent Online

The Football Association will tighten its drug-testing procedures to ensure there can be no repetition of the farce of Rio Ferdinand's "forgotten" test that led to his exclusion from yesterday's match in Istanbul.

The "man-marking" practised in Olympic sports is likely to be introduced, with an official assigned to each player so there is no possibility of his slipping away before giving a urine sample.

But mitigating factors in the Ferdinand case - including the way previous offenders have been treated - may mean only a fine or minimal suspension after he appears before the FA's compliance unit tomorrow.

Football is itself on a yellow card from the Government, having been warned it will lose the many millions of pounds it gets from the Lottery if drugs testing is not toughened up to meet Olympic standards.

In March, the minister for Sport, Richard Caborn, committed British sports to implementing the World Anti-Doping Code by next summer, and he has threatened the FA with the huge cash penalty if it does not comply. Mr Caborn has written to the FA's chief executive, Mark Palios, in the light of the Ferdinand affair saying: "The incident does seem to have thrown up an anomaly in the association's doping procedures, which puts football out of line with other sports."

Last night, Ferdinand's teammates faced Turkey without him in their vital Euro 2004 qualifying match in Istanbul. They were also without fans, thanks to Foreign Office warnings and a heavy security presence. British police stopped 45 fans at Ataturk airport and sent them home.

Meanwhile, Scotland beat Lithuania 1-0 at home to qualify for the play-offs.

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