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Blatter admits soccer has a doping problem
Mike Collett | December 05, 2003 05:48 IST
FIFA president Sepp Blatter exploded in anger at a news conference on Thursday, admitting for the first time that soccer does have a doping problem and that the sport needed to re-define its image if it was to maintain its global popularity.
The usually urbane 67-year-old also blasted a lack of respect in the game and declared: "It is not just the players, but the people who employ them -- the clubs, the leagues, the national associations.
"The Executive Committee has given me the mandate today to be strict, stricter than we have been before and given me the power to act."
In a wide-ranging attack, he said that soccer had a problem with doping and was especially critical of the English Football Association for the way they have handled the Rio Ferdinand doping case.
Blatter admitted that when he said at the FIFA Extraordinary Congress in Doha in October that football did not have a drugs problem he had made a mistake.
"The situation has changed on doping. I was wrong saying there was no problem with doping. Only the stubborn don't show flexibility. As the president of FIFA I must be flexible, within the statutes.
"I thought our game was clean. It is not clean. There is now a suspicion surrounding football. I have never seen, in a doping control someone not declare their innocence. Gentlemen, let's get serious.
"If we want to have our sport clean then we have to work on that. We need decision-making in football, we need professional decisions taken by top decision-makers, not volunteers. We need those with power and knowledge."
He said he was so determined to clean up the sport that he had now abandoned plans for a speech at next year's Congress in Paris and would instead highlight the problems in a special paper or dossier he would prepare by the end of this month.
"I was going to make a big speech next year at the Congress, but I am going to do it earlier than that. I will now compile a paper by the end of the year and I will put together all of the problems I have identified today -- and there are different problems."
He was particularly scathing of the English FA for the way they have handled recent cases, including the highly publicised Ferdinand case.
The England and Manchester United defender failed to take a scheduled drugs test on September 23 and has been playing for his club, but not selected for his country, since then. He has requested a personal hearing with the FA which will be held on December 18-19 although no decision may be taken until the New Year.
Any subsequent punishment could cost him his place in next year's European Championship finals in Portugal.
"The case should have been dealt with in a week," fumed Blatter, who also criticised the English FA for taking nearly eight months to deal with a disciplinary ruling against Joe Cole, now of Chelsea, for an incident when he was at his former club West Ham United at the end of last season.
"This is not the way things should be done," he said. "We, the parliament of FIFA will start to use our rights and our responsibilities to control football. We must avoid the game being put into disrepute.
"In the case of Ferdinand, I am surprised this case has not been dealt with. Perhaps he is innocent, if he is, declare him innocent and do it immediately. But if a player is under suspicion or chooses not to undergo a doping control he should be considered ineligible for as long as the case is not dealt with."
Apart from drugs and a lack of respect in the game, Blatter admonished clubs who refuse to let their young players take part in youth competitions.
"Ask any young player if they want to play in the World Youth Championships or the Olympic Games and they would say yes. Clubs must start letting their young players go to youth competitions."
"I saw Juergen Klinsmann yesterday and he says one of the great memories of his career was playing in the 1988 Olympic Games. Young players must be given this opportunity."
Blatter also attacked the G-14 group of Europe's richest clubs who are threatening to withdraw their players from national teams unless FIFA or UEFA pay their salaries while they are on international duty.
Blatter was furious that the G14 have threatened court action and said: "The G14 is a non-recognised organisation. I will no longer speak with G14, only with the clubs through their national associations.
"Let's discuss insurance of players when they are on international duties, that is something we can discuss. I will offer dialogue to help solve problems, but not with a threat to go to the European Court, or any other court from the clubs. We have our own court in football -- FIFA -- and if you cannot obtain what you want you can go to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS)."
The one bright note in Blatter's address was for the progress being made between FIFA and the German organisers of the next World Cup finals in 2006.
"We had quite an extraordinary meeting this morning. It was brilliant. Everything is working out to perfection and the atmosphere was more amicable than the wind blowing this way and that outside the building."