Aussies deny deal over 1993 doping tests
Former Australian football officials have rejected claims from Argentina that there was an agreement between the two countries to prevent drug testing before their qualifying playoffs for the 1994 World Cup.
Julio Grondona, president of the Argentine Football Association, said this week that doping controls were deliberately overlooked after a deal was struck with the Australian Soccer Federation on the eve of the matches.
However, Football New South Wales general manager Ian Holmes, who was the ASF chief executive in 1993 when the matches were held, said no deal was ever discussed.
''I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is no way in the world that any approach was made to me, the board or the coaching staff - and they would have come straight to us - to make a deal on that issue and, quite frankly, we would never have agreed,'' he told the Sydney Morning Herald in comments published on Friday.
''On my son's life, I can swear we would not have been a party to such a thing. It's just wrong on every level. Drug testing, in any form, was never discussed before those matches.''
Holmes said his focus, as was that of ASF chairman John Constantine and coach Eddie Thomson, ''was purely on winning those bloody matches.''
''Even if they (the AFA) had of come to us with some kind of deal - apart from the fact that it's morally corrupt - we couldn't have even agreed to it because we couldn't control whether ASDA (the Australian Sports Drug Agency) would have turned up anyway.''
In Buenos Aires on Wednesday, Grondona told the daily newspaper Clarin that doping controls were done away with during the World Cup qualifying playoffs in a move aimed at protecting Diego Maradona and other players.
Maradona has also charged that players were given a ''speedy coffee'' to perform better during the playoff.
''Maradona didn't play in other qualifying matches, and he came (into these matches) after having problems with drugs,'' Grondona said in Clarin.
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 in the United States.
Maradona and Grondona have been feuding publicly since last year's World Cup, when Grondona declined to renew Maradona's contract as national team coach.
In an earlier interview, Maradona said ''we would not have gone to the World Cup'' if there had been doping tests.
At the 1994 World Cup, Maradona was suspended for testing positive for stimulants after a first-round match against Nigeria. FIFA subsequently suspended him for 15 months.
Several of Maradona's teammates confirmed there were no drug tests for the 1993 matches.
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 have been surprised if they had resorted to taking performance-enhancing drugs.
He added he was ''absolutely gutted'' after hearing of Maradona's comments.