Soccer giant in doping mire
urmurings that blood doping had found its way into the beautiful game seemed to be confirmed today
In a refreshing variation on the theme of drugs scandals in cycling, an Italian doctor was today convicted of administering banned substances to the Juventus football club’s players during the 1990s. Riccardo Agricola was given a 22-month suspended prison sentence by judge Giuseppe Casalbore in Turin, six years after the Roma coach Zdenek Zeman’s first allegations about drug use at Juventus. Public prosecutors leading the case accused Agricola of giving the Juve players EPO, amongst other banned substances, between 1994 and 1998. Agricola’s conviction on charges of “sporting fraud” today signified that the allegations had been upheld. Club chairman Antonio Giraudo, who along with Agricola had denied the charges, was acquitted. On exiting the courtroom, Giraudo affirmed that “Agricola is and will remain the Juventus club doctor.I have been acquitted, therefore Juventus has been acquitted.” The club’s CEO, Luciano Moggi, announced that Juventus would back Agricola in an appeal against the judge’s verdict. Prosecutors had requested prison terms of three years and two months for Agricola and two years and one month for Giraudo. Under Italian law, any prison sentence of less than two years can be suspended. Defence lawyers argued that there was no evidence players were given doping products. Today’s verdict is the most damning evidence to date of the use of high-tech performance enhancing drugs in soccer. Moreover, in Juventus, the scandal could not have had a more high-profile victim. The dominators of the European game in the mid-1990s, Juventus counted amongst their ranks world famous players such as Zinedine Zidane, Alessandro Del Piero and Roberto Baggio. All three testified in the trial, and will see their past exploits subjected to new scrutiny as of today.