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.