Italian protest reopens doping ban debate

February 2, 2009

All professional matches in Italy started 15 minutes late at the weekend in protest at the Court of Arbitration for Sport banning two players for a year for turning up late for a doping control.

Daniele Mannini, now at Napoli, and Davide Possanzini were punished for tardiness after Brescia’s game against Chievo in Dec. 2007. Both said they did nothing wrong and Italian football has for once come together to support them.

The Italian soccer federation is looking at ways of appealing CAS’s decision but any hope of reversing the verdict is very remote.

We have been here before, of course, both with Rio Ferdinand and British 400 metre Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu.

Manchester United defender Ferdinand was banned for eight months for forgetting a drugs test in 2003 while Ohuruogu missed three out-of-competition drugs tests and after an initial ban and much legal wrangling, was allowed to run in Beijing last year.

The anti-doping authorities have to be tough but when sportspeople have legitimate excuses shouldn’t there be a way of giving them a bit of leeway?

The England team threatened to strike during the Ferdinand affair and were lambasted in the media for putting principles ahead of national pride. In contrast the protests in Italy this weekend were well-received by the public and the two players know they have the support of the whole of Italy, if not the law.

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