Rio Ferdinand has spoken for the first time since receiving his eight-month drugs test ban - revealing he was "shocked and devastated".
The Manchester United man was handed the punishment by the FA on Friday and is now set to miss Euro 2004.
"It hit me like a thunderbolt," he told the Sun newspaper. "I was shocked and devastated when I heard the verdict."
Ferdinand plans to appeal against the ban, which is due to take effect from 12 January.
The 25-year-old has the backing of Manchester United and England team-mate Gary Neville.
Neville said Ferdinand had been treated too harshly in light of the £2,000 fine handed to Manchester City's Christian Negouai for missing a drugs test last season.
"The last guy that was guilty of this offence got a £2,000 fine and that was in February," said Neville.
"In eight or nine months, what's changed? Nothing. You can't start making one rule for one and another for another.
"It's as simple as that. Perhaps the pressure from outside has gone against Rio."
Ferdinand's central defensive partner Mikael Silvestre said he was also shocked at the length of the ban.
"I didn't expect eight months - that's a long time," he said.
"We will try to support him and the best thing to do is to win every game now."
Ferdinand played alongside Silvestre in United's 2-1 win over Tottenham on Sunday, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he was happy with the defender's performance.
He said: "I was very pleased with Rio, I think it was the best thing to play him - he acquitted himself very well.
"I think the boy merits his position in the team because of his performances."
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Ferguson suggested on Saturday that Ferdinand could turn his back on England when he returns to action.
However, England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson said he hoped Ferdinand would soon be back on international duty.
"I know Rio will be very disappointed but in time he will play for England again - he will be in my plans for the future," he said.
"I hope he won't think about not playing for England because he is very proud of being an international."
Ferdinand is in the first 12 months of a three-year sponsorship deal with Nike worth a reputed £270,000 and the sportswear giants have said they will stand by him.
"This must be a very difficult time for Rio," said Nike spokesman Simon Charlesworth.
"He has been banned for a long time but we feel the decision is very harsh. We are sticking by him and our thoughts are with him."