Anti-doping officials accused of pressuring player to break fast

LONDON: UK Sport's anti-doping officials have been accused of putting pressure on a Muslim footballer to break his Ramadan daytime fast by drinking water to ensure he could provide a urine sample for a routine test. 

Manchester City's French midfielder Christian Negouai was required to provide a sample for a test at his club's training ground on Tuesday. 

According to City manager Kevin Keegan, Negouai had been left distraught after coming under pressure to comply with the test. 

“Christian is very upset about this,” Keegan told journalists ahead of City's UEFA Cup tie with Poland's Groclin. 

“On the one hand I am saying to him, “if you don't take the test it will look very suspicious.' But from the other end it is his belief, his religion. He was forced to drink water so he could get a urine sample and he didn't want to do it.” 

UK Sport, the body who oversee anti-doping controls in Britain, denied that any player would be forced to drink to ensure they could give a sample and said the officers carrying out the controls would have been prepared to wait until nightfall, when Muslims can break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. 

“We respect the beliefs of all religious groups and are sympathetic to their needs when it comes to testing,” UK Sport's chief executive Richard Callicott said. 

“In no circumstances would a sportsman or woman be forced to drink water. They are always provided with sealed, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks to aid them in producing a sample, but the use of these is no more than a recommendation.” 

Negouai and his club may have felt under increased pressure to provide a sample promptly for the anti-doping officials because the player failed to take a test last season. 

The Football Association accepted Negouai's explanation that his failure was due to a misunderstanding resulting from his poor English and the player escaped with a £2,000 fine. 

The issue of drugs testing in football is also highly sensitive at the moment with England centrehalf Rio Ferdinand facing a possible ban for missing a test at Manchester United's training ground on Sept 23. 

United are understood to be contemplating legal action based on the precedent set by the Negouai case if Ferdinand receives a lengthy ban. – AFP  

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