Hard lessons for football, says Coe

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Coe said yesterday that the Football Association can learn lessons from athletics in the wake of the Rio Ferdinand controversy.

The double Olympic champion has been asked by the FA to help in its review of anti-doping procedures. The Manchester United and England defender missed a drugs test on 23 September and will face an FA disciplinary committee hearing starting on Thursday in Bolton.

Ferdinand's case highlighted disparities between FA policy and those of many other sports, with athletics among those who treat missed tests as seriously as positive results.

Lord Coe, in Sheffield for the launch of the World Trials and AAA Championships which take place in February, believes athletics can point the way to the FA in terms of getting the message across.

"I think it's sensible that sports can learn from each other," he said. "In athletics we've been dealing with this on and off for the last 25 to 30 years, and in a high-profile way for the last 10 or 15 years. I think it's a sensible move from the FA.

"It's a complicated process ­ it's not just about protocol and procedures because the second there is a millimetre of a loophole then the lawyers will pick it apart straight away. In track and field we have a very clear set of rules and regulations and no athlete now can genuinely say that they are unaware of the penalties, the potential downsides or the rules."

The former Republic of Ireland international striker Tony Cascarino has admitted he regularly received injections of unknown drugs while playing for Marseilles in the 1990s.

"To this day I don't have a clue what it was," he said. "The doctor would only tell me that it would give me an adrenalin boost and I never felt inclined to ask the rest. Whatever the substance was, my performances improved. I cling to the sliver of hope that it was legal, though in reality I'm 99 per cent sure it wasn't."

Cascarino said the injections were administered with a "staple gun laden with 20 needles" and that, as a foreigner and newcomer, he would have felt uncomfortable declining.

The jabs, given 45 to 60 minutes before kick-off, made him feel sharper and more energetic and that the club's chairman, Bernard Tapie, who ruled the club completely, "made it clear my place in the team depended on me partaking".