RECIFE, Brazil — Football legend Diego Maradona hit out at FIFA after claiming seven of Costa Rica’s players were subjected to post-match doping controls over fears sponsors would not pay up if bigger teams like Italy failed to get out of the group stage at the World Cup finals.
Costa Rica, who stunned two-time champions Uruguay 3-1 last week, qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup on Friday with a superb 1-0 win over four-time champions Italy in Recife.
In accordance with FIFA regulations, two players from each side underwent doping controls following the clash at Arena Pernambuco.
However, five other Costa Rica players, unnamed in a report Saturday on Italian site Gazzetta, were also called to give samples.
Maradona, who was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the United States after testing positive for a cocktail of banned products including ephedrine, said FIFA’s decision amounted to a “lack of respect for the rules.”
The Argentinian also suggested the Central Americans had come under extra scrutiny because sponsors would not “pay as promised” if more established teams like Italy failed to go through.
“Why test seven players from Costa Rica and not seven from Italy?” Maradona said.
According to Gazzetta’s report, FIFA explained that, as well as the two players from each side normally scheduled for post-match doping controls, five Costa Rican players were added to the list because they were not available for pre-tournament testing beforehand.
But Maradona said that explanation was unsatisfactory: “This is only happening because some people are annoyed Costa Rica, and not the big teams, are going through [to the next round], and so the sponsors won’t pay what they’d promised.
“It’s against the rules. Two players from each team are supposed to undergo doping controls. I know what I’m talking about, because it happened to me,” Maradona said. “But seven players? I’ve never seen something like that.”
UPDATE: In his blog “Pamplinas” on elpais.com, Argentine journalist Martín Caparrós offers brilliant commentary on FIFA’s decision and the organization in general. It’s worth a read if you speak Spanish. Caparrós states:
Yesterday, when they [FIFA] decided that seven Costa Rican players should be tested for doping, they were stating the obvious: There is an order, and you can’t mess with it. …
The order is clear: In football, there are countries that are central and countries that are peripheral. Countries that buy talent and countries that sell raw material: Europe, on one side, Latin America and Africa on the other. …
They call them “Ticos”: It is the measure of a small, tranquil country in a zone of conflict, proud of its pacifism and its education and its volcanoes, a country that recently awoke from years of inaction and corruption and is named in surveys as one of the happiest countries on the planet. It is a country that lived in the confines of the football world, and suddenly said, “Here I am,” and shouted, “Pura vida”!
Read the entire blog here. Thanks to Fo León for the link.
UPDATE 2: AFP is reporting that Costa Rica has officially submitted a request to FIFA for an explanation of the anti-doping tests:
“We’re asking FIFA for an explanation. They probably won’t respond, and we won’t be surprised by that,” Costa Rica’s president of the national selection, Adrián Gutiérrez, said. “What has been surprising on a global level is that they test seven players, and that creates an image of suspicion that Costa Rican players are doping.”