Wed, May 25, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Argentina players took banned drugs, Maradona says

AP, BUENOS AIRES

Argentina players took banned drugs before a qualifying match against Australia for the 1994 World Cup, Diego Maradona said on Monday.

Maradona made the claim on Argentine television and accused FIFA vice president Julio Grondona, the head of the Argentine Football Association (AFA), of knowing about the doping.

“Why weren’t there any anti-doping controls in the match with Australia if we had them in all the other games?” Maradona asked during an interview on The Football Show. “They give you 10 anti-doping controls and only the match that decides whether Argentina will go to the United States or not, there is no anti-doping control. That’s the cheat and Grondona knew about it. What happened is that to play against Australia we were given a speedy coffee. They put something in the coffee and that’s why we ran more.”

Grondona had no immediate comment on Maradona’s claims.

After drawing with Australia in Sydney, Argentina won 1-0 in the second leg in Buenos Aires to advance to the tournament in the US, from which Maradona was later sent home after testing positive for drugs.

The ongoing feud between the two first erupted when Grondona decided not to renew Maradona’s contract as Argentina coach after last year’s World Cup.

Maradona reacted angrily to comments the 80-year-old Grondona made last week that were seen as veiled references to his much-publicized battle with drugs.

After Maradona suggested the AFA president should retire, Grondona was quoted as saying: “I’m old, but healthy,” adding that others had “created problems” for themselves.

Maradona, who won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina as a player, reiterated his intention to sue Grondona.

“Now he can chew on a trial. You can’t talk so lightly about a problem like the one I had,” Maradona said. “I’ve spoken to my lawyers.”

Maradona said the AFA president has long been perfectly aware of drug use in soccer.

“We took whatever the doctor gave us,” Maradona said. “To go to the World Cup, we’d have taken even orange juice. I’m saying it now because Grondona talks about drugs as if he didn’t know anything about drugs in football and the sickness I suffered.”

Maradona went on to insinuate that the government under Argentine President Cristina Fernandez was protecting Grondona because of a television deal with the AFA to broadcast national league matches for free.

“I’m not asking the president to fire him, I’m saying there should be changes,” Maradona said. “Given all the barbarities that Grondona does, because he’s old or because his time has passed, if the government keeps backing him then they are wrong.”

Argentine Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez rejected the idea that Grondona had any special protection.

“We don’t enter into this type of discussion,” Anibal Fernandez said on television on Monday. “Nobody is looking after anybody. We have a signed agreement and it’s respected as such. Let’s not get the government mixed up with this when it has nothing to do with it.”

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