By Nick Harris
19 April 2010
As the former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu has declared himself “not happy” at what he calls an “excessive” nine-month ban from all football, handed out in Italy under anti-doping laws for taking an appetite suppressant, sibutramine, an analysis by sportingintelligence of disciplinary action taken by the Football Association in England shows that most players caught taking illegal drugs in England get shorter bans, and suggests the Fiorentina and Romania forward might have landed a shorter ban had he still played in England.
One argument in favour of harsher punishment for Mutu’s latest offence could be that he is a previous offender: he was banned for taking cocaine at Chelsea. But that case is nullified by the fact he has been treated, technically, as a “first-time offender” in Italy. The Italian prosecutor, Ettore Torri, said he did not consider Mutu’s first ban when pressing the latest charge because Mutu’s positive test at Chelsea arose from “private” testing.
Sportingintelligence’s analysis considers all the bans handed out by the English FA for drugs offences since Mutu was banned for seven months in late 2004 after testing positive for cocaine when Chelsea targeted him because of internal suspicions at the club.
Since then, the English FA has handed out 24 drugs bans to footballers in its jurisdiction, most of them in a low-profile manner, or in a “no-profile” manner without the identities of the players ever being made public.
Of the 24 bans, 15 of them have been after positive tests for cocaine or for Benzoylecgonine, the primary metabolite of cocaine. Four more have been for marijuana or cannabis, two have have been for ephedrine, two have been for failing to comply with testing procedures and one ban has been for ecstasy.
In addition to the 24 bans (average ban period of 6.5 months, life bans aside, all bans detailed below), the FA has handed out another eight warnings or reprimands for cannabis / marijuana offences since banning Mutu in 2004, as well as one warning after a positive test for Terbutaline (allowed for asthma sufferers but otherwise banned), and one warning after a positive test for MDMA, or ecstasy.
The FA has further dealt with numerous other cases in the time period we have analysed following adverse findings for either anabolic agents or testosterone but no further action was taken after explanations for the findings were accepted.
In all there have been more the 60 positive drugs tests dealt with by the FA since Mutu, and details of each case (although without names in most cases) can be viewed on the UK anti-doping website, which has a searchable archive of positive test results in Britain across all sports, not just football.
Only one of the players among those receiving the 15 cocaine bans since Mutu has been named: Shaun Newton, banned for seven months in 2006.
Both players banned for ephidrine were named: one was Danny Cadamarteri, banned for six months in 2006, and the other was Paddy Kenny, banned for nine months last year. Kenny’s ban expires on Wednesday and he will then be free to play again for his club Sheffield United.
Only one of the four cannabis / marijuana ban players in the period considered was named: Ged Smith of non-league Kirkham, was banned for four months last year.
Only one of the “failure to comply” players was named, and that was Olafur Gottskalksson, an Icelander who fled Torquay United when showed a listed of banned substances as part of a random drugs test but before giving a sample. The former Iceland goalkeeper was banned indefinitely and hasn’t played since.
Mutu, 31, tested positive for sibutramine in January and his nine-month ban means he is unable to play again until 29 October unless an appeal is successful.
The prosecutor in his case wanted a one-year ban for the “first offence”. Mutu’s legal team argued he should receive a three- or four-month term because they said he consumed the drug by accident in a laxative.
In a statement read by Mutu’s lawyer, Paolo Rodella, the player said: “I’m not happy. Such a long ban for a laxative pill seems really excessive.”
Rodella said he would consider the ruling in detail but added it was possible his client would appeal today’s decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
AFTER MUTU: drug bans and warnings in English football since Adrian Mutu was banned in 2004
(Most recent first, date is when the case appeared in the UK anti-doping database)
Date: Substance — Action
26 Jan 2010: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 2-month ban. Player: Secret 13 Sep 2011 update: Now known to be Garry O’Connor
26 Jan 2010: Marijuana — warning. Player: Secret
10 Oct 2009: Ephedrine — 9-month ban (to 21 Apr 2010) and two years’ target testing. Player: Paddy Kenny
5 Oct 2009: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 5-month ban. Player: Secret
29 Sep 2009: Cocaine — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
29 May 2009: Marijuana — 4-month ban. Player: Ged Smith
27 Apr 2009: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
3 Mar 2009: Benzylpiperazine / Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 4-month ban. Player: Secret
3 Mar 2009: Marijuana — formal warning. Player: Secret
27 Nov 2008: Marijuana — formal warning / reprimand. Player: Secret
17 Oct 2008: Marijuana — 4-month ban. Player: Secret
26 Sep 2008: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 3-month ban. Player: Secret
12 Sep 2008: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 5-month ban. Player: Secret
20 Sep 2008: Marijuana — formal warning / reprimand. Player: Secret
11 Jan 2008: Failure to comply — 2-year ban. Player: Secret
3 Sep 2007: Marijuana — formal warning. Player: Secret
15 Mar 2007: Terbutaline — formal warning . Player: Secret
10 Jan 2007: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
5 Jan 2007: Marijuana — warning, target testing. Player: Secret
16 Oct 2006: Marijuana — warning, target testing. Player: Secret
3 Oct 2006: Ephedrine (stimulant) — 6-month ban. Player: Danny Cadamarteri
6 Sep 2006: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 7-month ban. Player: Shaun Newton
10 Jul 2006: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
22 Mar 2006: Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
22 Mar 2006: Marijuana — warning, target testing for two years. Player: Secret
19 Jan 2006: Marijuana — ban, lifted after assessment. Player: Secret
17 Jan 2006: Cocaine — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
20 Oct 2005: Cocaine — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
24 Jun 2005: Cocaine — indefinite ban after third positive test. Player: Secret
24 Jun 2005: Failure to comply — banned indefinitely. Player: Olafur Gottskalksson)
8 Jun 2005: MDMA (ecstasy) — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
8 Jun 2005: Cannabis — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
8 Jun 2005: Cannabis — 6-month ban. Player: Secret
16 May 2005: Cocaine — 12-month ban. Player: Secret
14 Jan 2005: MDMA (ecstasy) — warning. Player: Secret
NB: This list does not include any cases where there was “no further action”.