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Last Updated: Friday, 19 December, 2003, 20:45 GMT
Ferdinand banned for eight months
Rio Ferdinand arriving for the hearing into his missed drugs test
Rio Ferdinand has been banned for eight months and fined 50,000 by the Football Association after being found guilty of missing a drugs test.

An independent tribunal found the Manchester United defender guilty of misconduct after he failed to take a test on 23 September.

The ban, which provisionally starts from 12 January, would see him miss the rest of the season and Euro 2004.

United have already indicated they will appeal against the punishment.

The verdict from the three-man disciplinary commission was unanimous despite evidence supporting Ferdinand from his manager Sir Alex Ferguson and other figures within the game.

It came at the end of a two-day hearing at Bolton's Reebok Stadium, which lasted over 18 hours in total, and was swiftly followed by confirmation of United's intention to appeal.

Speaking for the club and with Ferdinand at his side, United director Maurice Watkins said: "We are extremely disappointed by the result in this case.

It is a particularly savage and unprecedented sentence which makes an appeal inevitable
Maurice Watkins
Manchester United director

"It is a particularly savage and unprecedented sentence which makes an appeal inevitable.

"We can confirm that Rio has the full support of Manchester United and the PFA and there will be no further comment at this stage."

Having requested a personal hearing, the 25-year-old now also has to pay the costs of the hearing.

The judgement comes 86 days after Ferdinand was asked to take a test at United's Carrington training headquarters, but left without undergoing the procedure.

Ferdinand claimed he then contacted the club to offer to take the test, but was told it was too late.

He provided a negative urine sample within two days and has never previously tested positive in his entire career.

But his legal team failed to persuade the commission that he simply forgot about the test, or that the drug-testers and their procedures were partly to blame for the mix-up.

Accepting the verdict of the commission, the FA said: "Clearly the commission regarded not taking a drugs test as a very serious matter and have taken their action accordingly."

But Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor labelled the decision "draconian".

"We knew there had to be a penalty, bearing in mind the world pressure, but he has quite clearly not been given the benefit of the doubt," Taylor told BBC Radio Five Live.

World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound however said he thought Ferdinand should have received a longer suspension.

"The sentence is a third of the theoretical maximum he could have got so he's done pretty well from his perspective," he told BBC News 24.

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Nine months and community service for kicking a fan
Mark Bosnich
Nine months after failing a drugs test for cocaine
Rio Ferdinand
Eight months and 50,000 fine for failing to take a drugs test
Vinnie Jones
Six months (suspended for three years) and 20,000 fine for commentary in a video glorifying football violence and dirty tricks
Roy Keane
Five weeks, and 150,000 fine for comments made about Alfie Haaland in his autobiography

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was among those who spoke on Ferdinand's behalf on Friday at the hearing.

Ferguson also insisted before giving evidence that Ferdinand would be in the United team to play Spurs at White Hart Lane on Sunday, irrespective of the verdict.

United have until 5 January to formally appeal, but until they do, Ferdinand is also technically available for the games over Christmas and New Year, with the home match against Newcastle on 11 January the last before his ban would begin.

If his appeal is unsuccessful, he may end up not returning to action until the start of next season.

That would force England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who also submitted a character reference for Ferdinand at the hearing, to plan for Euro 2004 without his first-choice central defender.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who had wanted the FA to administer a heavy punishment for Ferdinand, will be keen to ensure he does not feature at the summer showpiece in Portugal.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor
"It's quite draconian"

FA spokesman Nick Barron
delivers the commission's verdict

The BBC's Sally Nugent
"An appeal is a certainty"

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