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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 14:49 GMT
Juventus doping trial opens
Juventus player Gianluigi Buffon
Juventus intends to launch a vigorous defence
Two officials from the Juventus football team have gone on trial in Turin over charges relating to the doping of players from the club, the most successful in Italian history.

No Juventus players have ever taken drugs

Vittorio Chiusano
Juventus president
The prosecution alleges that Juventus managing director Antonio Giraudo and club doctor Riccardo Agricola were involved in supplying pharmaceutical products to several of the club's players between July 1994 and September 1998.

Over the period in question, Juventus won three Italian titles and one European Cup.

It is charged that, while the drugs in question were legal, they had been used in such a manner that essentially produced the same effects as illicit substances.

Czech coach Zdenek Zeman, once in charge of Italian first division side AS Roma, had sparked an initial inquiry into the side after he said doping was rife in the division and made specific references to Juventus players.

The trial is being seen as a landmark case, as it is believed to be the first time that sports officials have been held responsible for the effects of lawful products.

'Widely used'

Some 150 witnesses are expected to testify in the trial, which could include stars such as Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Christian Vieri.

Zinedine Zidane
Zidane says he took creatine when with Juventus
Both Mr Giraudo and Mr Agricola were present at the opening session, along with a Turin pharmacist who faces similar charges.

The Juventus president, Vittorio Chiusano, has denied any wrongdoing by his club, saying the team has only used products widely used by many other Italian footballers.

"The allegations aren't in fact about doping but about the distribution of authorised products that could have the effects of doping," said Mr Chiusano.

"We have, among other things used creatine," he said. "Everyone in Italy takes creatine."

Last week, former Juventus midfielder Zinedine Zidane told the French daily Le Monde that he took the muscle-building supplement while playing for the Turin club, but that he stopped after his transfer to Real Madrid last summer.

And last season, the team's Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids failed a random drug tests, testing positive for high levels of a banned steroid.

See also:

22 Jan 02 | Europe
Zidane: I took creatine
27 Dec 01 | Drugs in Sport
IOC warns football over drug bans
20 Dec 01 | Business
Juventus shares sink on debut
09 May 01 | Football
Testing times for football
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