Lama faces testing times

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The Independent Online
French football was in shock yesterday after allegations of drug abuse and tax evasion. Two players failed doping tests - the France goalkeeper Bernard Lama for cannabis and the Lille midfielder David Garcion for steroids - while Roland Courbis, who coaches Bordeaux, was jailed for tax evasion.

According to press reports, Lama failed a dope test while training with the French squad for a friendly against the Netherlands in February. A spokesman for his Paris St-Germain club said the goalkeeper had asked for a second analysis to be undertaken.

"Bernard won't make any comment on the case. He has asked for a second test to be made and he won't comment on the case before the results are known," said a PSG spokesman, Jean-Philippe d'Halyvillee.

If he fails the second test and is banned Lama, who has been capped 35 times by France, could miss the Tournoi de France in June - a preparatory tournament for the 1998 World Cup involving Italy, Brazil and England.

Should Lama receive a two- month ban he could count himself fortunate when compared with the punishment given to Garcion.

Lille club sources said the player had been banned for 18 months by the French football federation, after testing positive for steroids at the end of a league match between Nice and Lille on December 20. A follow- up test confirmed traces of steroids in the player's urine. It was the longest suspension ever imposed on a French footballer for drug abuse.

"I will defend my case in due course. But I feel relieved that this case is revealed to the public," Garcion said. The midfielder said he had not knowingly taken steroids, was unaware of being given any and that he had been surprised to fail the test.

Courbis, accused of concealing more than 10 million francs (pounds 1.1m) from his income tax, was sentenced by a Toulon court to six months in jail for "escaping the payment of income tax" during 1988 and 1989 when he was coach of the Bordeaux team.

Courbis claimed that he had had debts from gambling and had set up slush funds to pay for the transfers of players, adding that he had paid some players their wages in cash: "Everybody was doing the same thing," said the 43-year-old coach.

Courbis had already been given a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of 300,000 francs by a Marseille court in 1995 for embezzlement and fraud when he was the coach at Toulon.

He was seriously injured a year ago in the seaside resort of Hyeres when a friend of his, Dominique Rutily, the chairman of the Corsican football club, Calvi, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen.