The Azzurri’s preparations ahead of their crucial Group Eight World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland have been hit, with news that captain Fabio Cannavaro has failed a drugs test.
The 2006 World Player of the Year was allegedly treated with a banned cortisone substance, received to remedy a wasp sting sustained during training with his club, Juventus. It is understood that Juve medics knew the drug was prohibited, but requested exemption in case of an emergency. An administrative error meant paperwork was missing to fully clarify the situation, and therefore a separate anti-doping test returned a positive result.
Cannavaro – Italy’s record appearance maker with 129 caps – would not have featured against the Irish in any case due to a suspension for accumulating yellow cards. He had hoped to travel with the squad to Dublin, before returning home ahead of Wednesday’s final qualifying game versus Cyprus in Parma. Although no action has been taken against the player, it is unclear as to whether the issue will have been resolved in time for him to be considered for selection at the Ennio Tardini. Cannavaro was due to meet with the Italian Olympic Committee’s anti-doping investigator yesterday and the expected verdict is a closing of the case. Juventus are adamant they followed all medical procedures correctly, and even informed the Italian national team doctors about the injection. The issue revolves more around red tape and specific formalities not being completed than any serious drug taking offence. However, this incident is not the first time that Cannavaro, or Juve have found themselves shrouded in a drugs controversy.
On the eve of the 1999 UEFA Cup Final, a video emerged of Cannavaro – then at finalists Parma – being injected with a creatine phosphate, traditionally used in cardio surgery. The substance was not banned, and despite a few raised eyebrows, the player faced no repercussions. Before Calciopoli tarnished the Old Lady’s reputation, there were previously question marks surrounding the doping procedures used by the club in the mid-1990s. Question marks which subsequently led to a six-year investigation by public prosecutors, who accused the Turin giants of systematically doping its players between 1994-1998 – a period in which i Bianconeri won three Scudetti and the Champions League. In a fairly ambiguous chain of trials and enquiries, Juve were cleared of all charges by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, even though in a separate case Juventus doctor Riccardo Agricola was found guilty, and given a 22-month suspended prison sentence, for administering the banned drug Erythropoietin (EPO) to Juve players. Juventus and Cannavaro might not have done anything untoward this time around, but in the always sceptical and oft sinister world of Calcio, suspicious quarters may query their conduct.
So, the Azzurri need to make do without their skipper for the visit to Ireland, where only a point is needed to seal automatic qualification to World Cup 2010. Both sides are undefeated in the group so far, with the Irish four points adrift of Italy and occupying the play-off spot. The Italians are past masters at obtaining results, and even without Cannavaro, must remain confident of subduing the partisan crowd at Croke Park and seeing off the threat of the men from the Emerald Isle. Former Commissario Tecnico Giovanni Trapattoni will be keen to devoid his countrymen top spot in the group, but even an Ireland win means the Azzurri will still qualify in pole by beating Cyprus the following Wednesday.
Back in the peninsula, and with an international break creating a news void for a few days, an interesting story arose regarding Adriano, currently plying his trade in Brazil with Flamengo. After mutually having his contract terminated with Inter at the end of last season due to alcoholism and depression, the Brazilian striker has found his way back to form and fitness, crashing home 15 goals in 22 games in the Brasilerio Serie A. This has apparently interested Inter’s great rivals Milan, whom may be considering taking a punt on the player in the January transfer window after club director Ariedo Braida returned from a scouting mission in Brazil raving about the revitalised Adri.
Milan’s goal-scoring travails this season have been well documented, a problem which a fit and focussed Emperor could address. What makes this story slightly fantastical is that a return to the San Siro would pair the recovering alcoholic Adriano up with Ronaldinho – this week reported partying away again at a samba concert in Paris, just hours after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Atalanta. Two great talents and two troubled souls could mean one big headache for Coach Leonardo, as if he hasn’t got enough to worry about already.
News from the Peninsula
Week 6-7 –
Milanese managerial mess – September 27 – October 3
International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus) –
Cannavaro stung by doping claims – October 4 – October 10