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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
The Riogate saga
Rio Ferdinand's failure to take a drugs test landed him an eight-month ban, preventing him from taking part at Euro 2004. That ban comes to an end on 20 September.

But how did the events unfold?

23 September

Rio Ferdinand

An official UK Sport drug-testing team arrive at United's Carrington training ground to carry out random samples.

Ferdinand is one of four players to have his name picked out of a hat.

The players are allowed to shower after training before taking their tests but Ferdinand leaves before doing so and is later photographed shopping in Manchester city centre.

The centre-back is finally contacted by his club but it is too late for him to return as the testers have left. He tells United that he forgot the test as he was in the process of moving home.

24 September

Ferdinand does eventually take an official drugs test, which he passes.

However, his failure to sit the original test carries a "strict liability" penalty leading to a probable misconduct charge.

Late September

The FA receives official notification from Sport England and start to gather evidence for the case, while attempting to speed up the process as the England squad announcement looms.

3 October

The FA sends a letter to Ferdinand, informing him that UK Sport has advised them of his failure to attend the original test.

4 October

Talks begin behind the scenes with United as the club are contacted by the FA and informed of the FA's likely course of action. United call in their lawyers.

5 October

The England squad announcement, due at 1900 BST that evening, is delayed until the next day.

Publicly, it appears as though fitness concerns over Owen are the issue.

But the FA is, in fact, trying to avert a crisis. FA head of football David Davies has an informal meeting with Ferdinand in the morning, while FA officials meet to discuss the case later.

6 October

The FA's view that Ferdinand cannot be picked in the squad starts to harden. Efforts are made to hold the "interview" with Ferdinand that must precede any official charge before the squad is named.

Ferdinand, however, rejects the chance to move this "interview" forward from Monday 13 October. The FA, therefore, postpones the squad announcement once again as its compliance unit flies to Manchester.

7 October

Sven Goran Eriksson
England boss Eriksson was left without one of his key players
No meeting with Ferdinand is possible, so Eriksson is told that the centre-back must be left out of the squad, with the FA deeming his call-up to have been "inappropriate".

The FA holds an early evening meeting with leading players, including the "players' committee" of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Sol Campbell and Gary Neville, who make them fully aware of their objections.

The FA releases a statement claiming that talk of any proposed strike is wide of the mark, insisting that talks have been "amicable".

The England players nevertheless hold a meeting of the full squad, with Paul Barber asked to present his views.

Once Barber has left, a vote is taken and the players unanimously agree that they will threaten to strike if Ferdinand is not recalled.

8 October

Talks aimed at averting a strike start at breakfast time and continue throughout the day, even though the players do turn up for training.

At 1600 BST, Barber tells the media the FA will not back down and that the players are meeting later to consider whether to go ahead with their threat to boycott the game.

Five hours later, Eriksson and FA chief executive Mark Palios emerge to announce the squad will be travelling to Turkey after all.

The players do not appear but launch a bitter attack on the FA in a written statement which is handed to journalists.

12 October

The FA announces it has begun a formal review of the affair and gives details of plans to seek retractions for any slanderous comments made against it with PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor thought to be a likely target.

13 October

Ferdinand - together with his legal team and PFA representatives - attends a personal interview with FA head of compliance Steve Barrow.

"In accordance with the FA procedures and timetable, I [have] participated in an FA interview and provided the association with a full and detailed explanation of my failure to take a random test," read Ferdinand's statement.

But no charges are forthcoming as the FA seeks more time to investigate the case.

14 October

United insist they will continue to pick Ferdinand while the FA considers what action to take, insisting there is no "moral dilemma" in the selection.

And Fifa warns the FA that it is willing to step in if any punishment handed out to Ferdinand is deemed too lenient.

15 October

Gary Neville
Team-mate Neville was unhappy with the handling of the case
Ferdinand's Manchester United and England team-mate Gary Neville issues a strong criticism of the FA's handling of the affair.

Neville accuses the organisation of "hanging [Ferdinand] out to dry" and prejudging the case.

The FA asks Ferdinand for his mobile phone records as evidence.

27 October

Fifa announces it will discuss the handling of Ferdinand's case on 28 October.

But the governing body stresses it will await the English FA's findings before making any statement about the matter.

29 October

The FA charges Ferdinand with misconduct, for a breach of rule E26, which refers to "the failure or refusal by a player to submit to drug testing as required by a competent official".

The player has until 1700 GMT on 13 November to respond to the charges.

13 November

With his deadline looming, Ferdinand formally denies the misconduct charge and requests a personal hearing with the FA to present his case.

1 December

The FA announces Ferdinand's personal hearing will take place at Bolton's Reebok Stadium on 18-19 December.

18 December

Ferdinand arrives an hour early for the hearing and seven hours of deliberations take place before the proceedings are adjourned until 0900 GMT on Friday.

19 December

Rio Ferdinand
Relief for Ferdinand as his eight-month ban comes to an end
After another 11 hours of evidence and witness statements, Ferdinand finally learns his fate.

He is found guilty of the misconduct charge and is banned for eight months and fined 50,000. Manchester United describe the punishment as "savage and unprecedented" and confirm they intend to appeal.

16 January

Ferdinand announces he is to appeal against his eight-month suspension, but that he intends to start serving the ban from 20 January.

18 March

Ferdinand's appeal is heard at London's Heathrow Airport, but the three-man independent panel dismisses it and the England defender's hopes of playing at Euro 2004 are finally ended.

20 September

Ferdinand's eight-month ban comes to an end ahead of his expected return to action against rivals Liverpool in the Premiership.





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