Garcia banned after positive cocaine test

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The Independent Online

Russell Garcia, Britain's most influential player and the most capped Englishman of all time, is unlikely to play in next summer's Olympic Games after being banned for three months for taking cocaine.

Russell Garcia, Britain's most influential player and the most capped Englishman of all time, is unlikely to play in next summer's Olympic Games after being banned for three months for taking cocaine.

The 29-year -old Garcia, who has made a record 289 appearances, became the youngest hockey player to win an Olympic gold in Seoul in 1986 at the age of 18. He looked set to break a British hockey record when competing in his fourth Olympics next September.

Garcia was tested by UK Sport at a Great Britain training camp at Millfield School in November. Prior to the test he admitted that he had taken a banned substance socially. He was immediately suspended from the camp and excluded from the Great Britain squad to tour Australia and New Zealand next month. The test result confirmed the presence of the Class A drug.

He appeared before a Great Britain Olympic Hockey disciplinary panel which included Richard Dodds, his captain at the Seoul Olympics, and was given the three-month ban, which is the maximum for a first offence.

"I realise that my action has brought hockey, and in particular, the Great Britain Team, into disrepute and I deeply regret this," Garcia said. "I would like to extend my deepest apologies to my team-mates, the coaching staff and all involved in Great Britain and English hockey." His ban will run from the date of his original temporary suspension by the Great Britain Olympic Hockey Board on 1 December.

Garcia plays for Harvestehuder in Hamburg, having travelled to Barcelona (as a polo coach) and the Hague after his glory years in the English league with Havant.

The British Olympic Association confirmed yesterday that they have a rule which clearly states that any person found guilty of a doping offence by their national governing body shall not be eligible for consideration as a member of a Great Britain Olympic team.

Although there is an appeals process it seems highly unlikely that Garcia will line up for Great Britain in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

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