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All Things Footie | Monday, December 22 | Jordan

Swings and Rioundabouts

What goes around, they say, comes around. It would be a breath of fresh air if, at the finalé of the FA and Manchester United’s waltz around Rio Ferdinand, the arrognace, petulence and inflated self-importance of England’s most successful football club was rubber stamped with a more ‘savage’ punishment than they have already.

If Rio Ferdinand, guilty as charged of missing a drugs test (for that is all he is ‘accused’ of), had been allowed to admit his guilt, apologise, take part in an anti-drugs campaign and show that he was sorry for a simple mistake, he would have gotten a three month ban—tops. The, at times breathtaking, arrogance of his employers, manager and team-mates in thinking they can prove that black is white, has dug a very deep hole for him to wallow in. If Maurice Watkins, Alex Ferguson and worst of all that Oxygen-theif Gordon Taylor, continue to entertain the ridiculous notion that missing a drugs test should carry no punishment, then I for one hope that the proverbial ton-of-bricks come falling down on all of them.

How can anyone with half-a-brain (which is why Rio Ferdinand is the one man excused from this) argue that the punishment for missing a drugs test should be exponentially more lenient than for failing one? It is a landmark hearing for football, and if Ferdinand was given a two month ban (for instance) what message would that send? Put yourself in the position of another Mark Bosnich, and imagine you’ve had a cheeky snort on Saturday night, celebrating after a game. Now imagine the UK Sport drug testers come to the training ground on Monday morning and you have the dilemma of whether to take the test and run a very real risk of a two-year ban, or ‘forget’ the test, clear your system, and take it two days later. Two-months versus two-years is no contest.

And for those of you shaking your head at that last sentance, just think about it. Get real. Ferdinand has recieved a ban, no doubt influenced by Bosnich’s nine-month ban for cocaine abuse. Had Bosnich been found guilty of taking a performance enhancing drug, then it’s likely it would have been closer to two-years, but ‘recreational’ drugs are (understandably) punished in sporting circles less severely. So Rio Ferdinand has receieved a punishment slightly less than he would have recieved for a minor drug offence—which sounds very fair to me. A deterrant, without being quite as severe as actually failing a test.

How Manchester United have avoided punishment for bringing the game into disrepute I don’t know, and if they insist on taking the matter to the high court, I hope the FA makes an example of them. Points have been docked for much less, and £100,000+ fines handed out for errors of judgement having far narrower implications than this. I say to Mark Palios—who I don’t like one bit by the way—threaten United with six points, £200,000 and the full mandatory two-year ban for Ferdinand, and see if they’re willing to risk that.

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