Last night, a three-man disciplinary commission unanimously decided that Rio Ferdinand was guilty of missing a drugs test on the 23rd of September 2003. He has subsequently been banned for 8 months (starting January 12th) and fined 50,000 pounds, meaning he will not be eligible to play in Euro 2004. I have previously written on this issue in the blog before, and I have to admit I'm kinda happy he was found guilty. Mark Palios, the next chief executive of the Football Association, promised to get tough on doping on his first day in charge, and this sends out a signal to all would-be offenders. It's a pity that poor old Rio had to be the scapegoat, but if he did the crime, he has to do the time. You can read about how the entire 'Riogate Saga' unfolded here.
This decision has polarised opinions all over the world. Some people (me included) believe that he deserved to be punished, some even say that he should have been given the maximum ban of 2 years....!!
Manchester United has decided to appeal the decision, claiming it is harsh. They run the risk of having the ban extended if the appeal is unsuccesful. European football's governing body, Uefa, have backed the FA over its stance on Ferdinand.
"From a Uefa disciplinary standpoint, our view would be that this type of offence would carry at least a six-month ban," said Uefa spokesman Rob Faulkner.
"So it is in line with what we would expect to happen if the player had failed to take a test during a Uefa competition.
"Our guidelines state a minimum of six months for a first offence so from our point of view it would seem appropriate."
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has since said he was not happy with the way the case had been handled, and he would also be happy with the ruling.
Ferdinand, as a professional player, knew it was his duty to complete a drugs test once informed that his name had been randomly selected by the UK Sport testers. For him to claim that he simply forgot is no defence. Although there is no suggestion that Ferdinand took a banned substance, there are plenty of drugs which leave the body 24 hours after they are taken, which is why Ferdinand's subsequent passing of a test two days later is irrelevant. In sports like athletics, deliberately missing a drugs test is the equivalent of failing it. Have it any other way and the system falls apart. In this light the ban imposed by the FA is understandable.
However, some would say that the FA has bowed to outside pressure, and has been harsh to Rio simply because he is a player in the 'powerful' Manchester United. A lot of key figures believe that Rio has been hung out to dry........including PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor, who has threatened to sever ties with the FA. Why has Ferdinand been banned when Manchester City's Christian Negouai received only a fine last season for the same offence? The FA would argue that there are differences in the two cases that have not been made puclic, and also Palios was not in charge at the time.
This is going to be a topic of dicussion for weeks to come, but Rio will not be playing football for a while come next year.