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The England players were naïve in threatening to strike - 16/10/2003

The England players were naïve in threatening to strike
Rio - a week to forget
   Rio Ferdinand
   Football Association

The Rio Ferdinand saga was, and is, a right mess. But what has happened cannot be changed and lessons should be learned. From my experience, players were selected for drugs testing and then immediately escorted to a medical room where a sample was provided with the whole process being supervised. I remember earlier in the season at Leeds when Alan Shearer was tested and was made to wait a couple of hours – he couldn’t process an immediate sample due to dehydration after the game.

It’s seems strange that this type of testing – ie. an immediate supervised test isn’t the norm. I dare say the FA have a reason for an appointment based process, but perhaps this should be looked at?

As for the England players reaction, this left a lot to be desired and they were crucified by some elements of the press. For me, football has been in the dock over the last few weeks and to threaten to strike was a stupid, naïve, and unprofessional response that did the players no good whatsoever. I sympathise with their need to show support for Rio, in fact it’s commendable – but there’s ways of showing support! For example, they’d have been better insisting on having an input into the testing procedure.

I imagine that Rio genuinely forgot about the appointment – and possibly hadn’t appreciated the gravity of the consequences. You have to bear I mind that players are looked after like babies, everything is done for them and there’s little expected in terms of organising themselves. I’m not having a go, it was exactly the same when I was a player, and it can take some adjusting too when you retire. But this should be taken into account, and it’s another reason why the immediate test would be superior.

The fact that he was punished by the FA through his England suspension was disappointing. Again, maybe I shouldn’t comment without knowing the full facts – there may be a legal responsibility for the FA to suspend all players who fail to take or fail a test? But I can’t imagine some other nations suspending one of their best players for a game that was crucially important?

All told it was a disappointing incident and I just hope that both the players through the PFA, and the FA can get together to ensure that history isn't repeated.

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