Sun, Nov 28, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Judge convicts Juventus soccer club doctor

AP , ROMEAP, LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND

Juventus physician Riccardo Agricola during his trial in Turin, Italy on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

A judge on Friday convicted a Juventus club doctor for administering banned substances to the team's players during the 1990s, while acquitting the club's chairman, lawyers said.

Turin Judge Giuseppe Casalbore handed down a suspended jail term of one year and 10 months to club physician Riccardo Agricola and acquitted chairman Antonio Giraudo.

Emiliana Olivieri, a defense lawyer for Agricola, said her client was convicted for providing drugs to players during the period 1994-1998, including the banned hormone EPO. Olivieri said she planned to appeal the verdict next year, when a detailed explanation of the judge's ruling will be released.

The verdict cast a shadow over some of the club's recent success. However, Giraudo maintained that the team as a whole was not marked by the ruling.

"I have been acquitted in my role as chairman, and therefore Juventus has been acquitted," he told reporters after the verdict. "Nothing ever happened at the club against the principles of sporting legality."

Agricola insisted he was innocent. "What is important is what my players think. They know that nothing happened," he said.

Defense lawyers had sought the acquittal of both, arguing there was no evidence that players were given banned substances. They contended that other drugs Agricola was accused of administering were commonly used in soccer, and were supplied to improve players' health.

Still, lawyers expressed some satisfaction at the ruling.

"It's a sentence that went well for us because Giraudo was acquitted on all counts," said defense lawyer Luigi Chiappero. "I think we have excellent arguments and I hope these will be taken into account in the appeal."

The high-profile trial is a benchmark case for Italian soccer, involving a team that has won 27 league titles and has fans across the country.

Olivieri described the case as "more a trial against the system of soccer and the use of drugs rather than a trial against Riccardo Agricola." The doctor himself said he had been used as a "human guinea pig" in the trial.

Chiappero said: "This trial shows that there is a rejection of the use of pharmaceutical products in sport, that people have to play without any extra help. We'll see if this theory is accepted. But it goes against the reality of today."

Between 1994-1998, the Turin team won three Italian league titles, one Champions League title and the Intercontinental Cup.

Prosecutors had requested prison terms of three years and two months for Agricola and two years and one month for Giraudo.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez doesn't want to share a stadium with local rival Everton, saying the pitch would suffer and the club would lose its identity.

Liverpool's Anfield Stadium is only a few miles from Everton's Goodison Park, with both venues built in the 19th century. British sports minister Richard Caborn is to talk to both clubs next Wednesday about sharing a new stadium, but isn't likely to get a warm reception.

"It is not for me and I do not believe Liverpool or Everton fans want it," Benitez said Friday.

Everton has been at Goodison Park ever since a dispute with Liverpool over the cost of ground-sharing at Anfield in 1892. Goodison Park now seats 40,500 and Anfield 45,300.

Everton chief executive Keith Wyness said the club would attend the meetings "with an open mind." The two clubs first met a year ago about a shared stadium.

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