DIEGO MARADONA, at one time the world's greatest footballer, is unlikely to play again after a disciplinary hearing by Fifa, the game's ruling body, banned him from all competitions for 15 months for drug abuse.
The Argentinian midfield player was also fined 20,000 Swiss francs ( pounds 10,000) for taking the banned stimulant, ephedrine, during the World Cup finals in the United States this summer. It is his second ban for drug-taking and the punishment, agreed by the World Cup organising committee meeting in Zurich yesterday, is the same.
Three years ago Maradona was suspended after he was found guilty of using cocaine. Following that lengthy absence, he attempted a comeback which culminated in him answering Argentina's plea to play in the World Cup. He shed the excess weight he was carrying to make an impact at the start of the tournament but, at a routine test after the second game against Nigeria, a cocktail of five stimulants, including ephedrine, was found in a urine sample.
At the height of his fame, Maradona captained his country to victory in the 1986 World Cup, but an illustrious career has too often fallen into controversy and disgrace. He is unlikely to resume it when the ban expires on 29 September 1995, when he will be just a month short of his 35th birthday. In Buenos Aires yesterday he said: 'You can tell these guys at Fifa have no families. They really didn't take anything into consideration.'
Maradona had Carlos Menem, his country's president, on his side. 'We expected something lighter,' he said. 'We thought expelling him from the World Cup had been enough.'
The same Fifa meeting rejected an appeal from Mauro Tassotti, the Italian defender, against the eight-match international ban imposed after he was found guilty, on video evidence, of elbowing the Spanish player, Luis Enrique, during the World Cup.
Leeds United's search for a goalscorer has led them to Milan and an inquiry about Darko Pancev, the Macedonia and former Yugoslavia striker who is surplus to requirements at Internazionale.
Pancev won the Golden Boot award as Europe's most prolific marksman in 1990/91, when he scored 34 goals for Red Star Belgrade. Now 28, he has made little impression with Inter, and spent last season on loan to Leipzig. When the German club did not make the transfer permanent, Leeds were alerted.
Howard Wilkinson's failure to land Genoa's Czech, Tomas Skuhravy, which followed an unsuccessful attempt to sign Chris Sutton in a part-exchange deal that would have taken Brian Deane to Norwich, shows Wilkinson is determined to improve his striking strength.
Newcastle have abandoned plans to sign Brad Friedel, the United States international goalkeeper, who has been unable to secure a work permit.
Barcelona have imposed a fine of pounds 52,000 on their Brazilian striker, Romario, for taking an unauthorised holiday after the World Cup.
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