Diego’s teammates deny conscious drug use

Former Argentina teammates of Diego Maradona confirm his claims
that there were no doping controls before World Cup playoffs with
Australia in 1993, but said they had no knowledge of receiving
performance-enhancing drugs.

Former Australia captain Paul Wade said in published comments on
Wednesday that Argentina was under so much pressure to qualify for
the 1994 finals that he would not be surprised if they had resorted
to taking performance-enhancing drugs.

He added he was ”absolutely gutted” after hearing of
Maradona’s comments.

Maradona said on Argentine television on Monday that the players
were given an unspecified stimulant before the two-legged playoff
to decide which team would qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the
U.S.

”What happened is that to play against Australia we were given
a speedy coffee. They put something in the coffee and that’s why we
ran more,” Maradona told ”The Football Show.”

Maradona said Argentine Football Association President Julio
Grondona knew about the doping. He said Argentina faced doping
controls before every qualifier until the playoffs with Australia.
”That’s the cheat and Grondona knew about it,” Maradona said.

Grondona has made no comment.

Argentina drew the first match in Sydney 1-1 and won the return
1-0 in Buenos Aires to secure a berth in the 1994 tournament.

Maradona’s teammates agreed there were no drug tests before the
matches but deny consciously taking any illegal substances.

”We knew there wasn’t going to be any anti-doping control a few
days before, but we didn’t attach any importance to it,”
midfielder Hugo Perez told The Associated Press on Tuesday. ”We
just concentrated on playing, but what Diego said about there being
no control is true.”

Perez said it was difficult to give precise details about what
happened because it was a long time ago, but remembers the players
could drink either water or coffee.

Former defender Jose Chamot said it would be ”illegal” to take
illegal substances ”even if there were no anti-doping
control.”

”I didn’t need those things,” Chamot told Libre newspaper on
Tuesday. ”Sometimes they gave us vitamins as supplements for the
journeys, but nothing more than that. If there had been anything to
make the team run faster, I didn’t participate.”

Fellow defender Jorge Borelli told the newspaper: ”I didn’t
take any ‘speedy coffee’ … I just drank tea and soft
drinks.”

Socceroos skipper Wade marked Maradona in both playoff
matches.

”I remember when we went over there for the return match the
president of Argentina said nothing less than a victory over
Australia would be acceptable,” he told The Australian newspaper.
”He said there would be a national day of mourning if they
lost.

”It wouldn’t surprise me if they had taken those things
(drugs). They were playing a relatively backwater football nation
and if we had beaten them can you imagine what would have
happened?”

At the 1994 World Cup, Maradona was suspended for testing
positive for stimulants after a first-round match against
Nigeria.

Although Maradona’s footballing prowess was on the wane and his
drug problem was an open secret, Argentina lost its last-16 match
against Romania and was eliminated.

FIFA subsequently banned Maradona for 15 months.

The feud between Maradona and Grondona first erupted when
Grondona decided not to renew Maradona’s contract as Argentina
coach after the 2010 World Cup.

Maradona called for the 79-year-old, who has led the AFA for 32
years, to retire and make way for younger candidates.

”I’m old, but healthy,” Grondona was quoted as saying. ”Not
like others who aren’t (healthy) and not because of natural
problems, but because of created problems.”

Those comments infuriated Maradona, who interpreted them as
thinly veiled references to his much-publicized battle with
drugs.

Maradona claimed he has been clean for more than seven years and
pledged to sue Grondona.

He also admonished the Argentine government under Cristina
Fernandez for protecting Grondona because of a television deal with
the AFA to broadcast national league matches for free.

Argentine cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez rejected the idea that
Grondona had any special protection. ”Nobody is looking after
anybody,” he said on Monday.

Another teammate of Maradona’s said it was time for the
mudslinging to stop.

”It’s craziness that this has happened, it’s all a political
question,” said Carlos Mac Allister, in remarks quoted by Clarin
newspaper on Tuesday.

”They want to get rid of Grondona and they don’t realize that
they are involving and dirtying many people. History will tell who
is who,” Mac Allister added.