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 January 25, 2002 | 1212 IST
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Stam, Guardiola banned for nandrolone use

Dutch defender Jaap Stam has been banned for five months for using the steroid nandrolone while Spanish midfielder Josep Guardiola has been suspended for four months, the Italian league said on Thursday.

Stam, who plays for Lazio, and Guardiola (Brescia) were also fined 50,000 euros ($44,000) following the Italian league's disciplinary commission meeting.

They can be tested without warning in the future and have no right to appeal.

"The players now have no appeal. This is the last hearing and the players must accept their punishments," a league spokesman said.

However, Italian news agency ANSA said the players' lawyers later confirmed they would appeal to CAF, the Italian sports conciliation body.

Guardiola's ban will not stop him playing at the World Cup finals if selected since it has been backdated to November 22 when the suspension began.

Guardiola said the hearing had been overshadowed by the death of his 27-year-old Brescia team mate Vittorio Mero, who was killed in a car accident on Wednesday.

"The death of Vittorio is truly terrible news and so the only possible attitude I can have now is silence. On appeal I will demonstrate my innocence."

When asked about the World Cup, Guardiola added: "At the moment this is absolutely secondary to me, firstly, because the death of Vittorio has only just happened, secondly, because I still want to prove my innocence and, thirdly, because at the moment I'm just thinking of Brescia."

Stam's ban was also backdated to November 17, but his World Cup hopes ended when the Netherlands failed to qualify.

POSITIVE TESTS

Stam tested positive for nandrolone in a sample given after the game against Atalanta in October while Guardiola, 30, first tested positive after a match against Piacenza, also in October and then again in November following a game against Lazio.

The Italian anti-doping prosecutor had recommended a 10-month ban for Stam and one year for Guardiola.

Stam and Guardiola, who were suspended after the positive tests, have both denied taking any banned substance.

Guardiola said after the first positive test that he would quit football if he failed to clear his name.

According to ANSA, at the end of the hearing, Stam said: "I came to Italy because it was a good move for my career. I felt that at 29 I could grow as a player.

"For what motives would I risk my career? I have no reason."

There is considerable controversy surrounding nandrolone with claims that positive tests can be produced without an athlete knowingly taking an outlawed substance.

Last season in Italy, nine players tested positive for the steroid, including Edgar Davids and Lazio's Portuguese international defender Fernando Couto.

In July, UEFA's court of appeal reduced a one-year nandrolone ban on Barcelona star Frank de Boer, who tested positive for the drug in March, to just under three months.

UEFA admitted it was likely that de Boer's positive test had been caused by contaminated food supplements.

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