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Football’s Biggest Controversies – Doping

Diego Maradona

The 1986 World Cup winner is considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time. The way he led Argentina to the pinnacle of world football in 1986 has very few parallels in any sport.

Maradona was blessed with superhuman abilities. His intelligence on the pitch, never say die attitude, and most importantly, his close control and superlative dribbling made him football royalty. But for all of his genius, Maradona also had a few vices.

The attacker struggled with cocaine abuse right through the prime of his football career until the mid 2000s, before he was eventually able to come clean. However, the lowest point of his career came at the 1994 World Cup in the United States when he tested positive for the banned drug ephedrine.

He later claimed that his trainer had goofed up and given him the wrong power drink, but FIFA handed him a ban that ended his glorious career which had reached its zenith eight years prior at the Azteca in Mexico.

Rio Ferdinand

The former central-defender when signed from Leeds United for Manchester United in the summer of 2002 for a staggering sum of £34 million, it made him the most expensive defender in the Premier League.

The then 24-year-old didn’t buckle under the pressure of the enormous price tag and went on to become a legend at Old Trafford. Ferdinand, who retired from the game at the end of the 2014/15 Premier League season, went on to play 12 years for the Red Devils and won six league titles, three League Cups and the 2008 Champions League at the club. He also represented the England national team in 81 matches at the highest level.

However, before all the success, Ferdinand reached the nadir of his career in his early days at Old Trafford when in September that year he failed to attend a drug test scheduled to take place at United’s Carrington training ground. It later transpired that he had forgotten about the test, and by the time he realised it was too late.

The FA handed him an eight-month ban in January 2004 that saw him miss part of the 2004/05 season as well the 2004 Euro.

Adrian Mutu

The former Romania international had a troubled career. During the 2003/04 season, Mutu was on Chelsea’s books and went on to score a credible ten goals from 27 league appearances before he failed a drug test for cocaine and the Blues released him in October 2004. The FA banned him for seven months.

However, Chelsea were not ready to let him off the hook all that easy and started to seek compensation from him, owing to a breach of contract. The case is yet to come to a conclusion.

Five years later, and now at Fiorentina, Mutu found himself in another drug related controversy as he was reported to have failed a doping test before a Coppa Italia clash against Lazio. He was banned for a year, but later served a six-month suspension from the game before returning with La Viola.