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Oct 5, 2012

FA: Ashley Cole evidence 'evolved'

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo and press officer Steve Atkins discuss Ashley Cole's controversial tweet on Friday morning.

LONDON -- The FA panel that banned Chelsea captain John Terry for four matches for racially abusing an opponent found that his defense was "implausible and contrived."

The FA report, released Friday, also cited discrepancies in the initial statement Terry teammate Ashley Cole gave to FA interviewers compared to the statement Cole made later to the FA.

Cole responded Friday with a tweet from his account that said: "Hahahahaa, well done #fa, I lied did I" and ended with a hashtag followed by a profanity, for which he apologized via written statement released to the media.

"I had just finished training and saw the captions on the TV screens in the treatment rooms about what was said in the FA commission ruling about me," the statement said. "I was really upset and tweeted my feelings in the heat of the moment. I apologise unreservedly for my comment about the FA."

The panel's 63-page findings were published Friday, a week after the verdict, and Terry has 14 days to decide whether to appeal his four-match ban and 220,000-pound ($356,000) fine in English soccer's highest-profile racism case.

The Chelsea and England full-back's evidence proved crucial to Terry in his acquittal at Westminster Magistrates Court in July, but the FA commission last week banned Terry for four matches for racially abusing Ferdinand.

Asked about Cole's tweet, Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said they would look into it.

Di Matteo said: "We'll look at the tweet and then we'll see. Apart from this, I don't think the players are out of control."

Although Terry was cleared in a criminal court in July, an FA panel with a lower burden of proof found the former England captain guilty of directing abuse at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last October.

Terry, who quit the national team before the verdict, maintained that he only used the slur to counter an accusation of racism he claimed Ferdinand was leveling at him.

But the FA commission concluded that aspects of Terry's defense were "improbable, implausible and contrived, and which serve to underline and reinforce our decision."

"The commission is quite satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that there is no credible basis for Mr. Terry's defense that his use of the words '(expletive) black (expletive)' were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful rejection and/or inquiry," the FA report said. "Instead, we are quite satisfied, and find on the balance of probabilities, that the offending words were said by way of insult."

In the Terry judgment issued Friday, the panel raised concerns about the long-term impact of the player's high-profile outburst.

"His conduct undermines the FA's efforts to promote inclusivity, equality and diversity and in combating racism in football," the FA said, while stressing that Terry is not racist.

Since the confrontation, Ferdinand has been taunted by Chelsea fans when QPR has played its west London rival.

"The victim impact statement of Mr. Ferdinand makes it plain that he has been badly affected by the incident," the FA panel said. "He has been the subject of hateful abuse and adverse comments, but has acted with restraint and dignity."

Cole, who has been capped 98 times by England, was near Ferdinand and Terry during QPR's 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their Premier League game on Oct. 23, 2011.

In his witness statement, describing what he claims Ferdinand said to Terry during the incident, the word "black" was added at a later stage, according to BBC reports.

According to the commission's report, this had the effect of "bolstering Mr Terry's claim that the words that he spoke to Mr Ferdinand were not said by way of an insult, but as repetition and forceful denial of what Mr Ferdinand had accused him of saying."

Di Matteo said Friday players pushed to "the edge" during a game of football could react in ways they regret.

"Even people who are very rational and composed, during a game sometimes can lose their composure a little bit," he said. "When you are pushed to the edge of your ability, your mental and physical ability, sometimes you react in a way that maybe you regret afterwards. So maybe it's difficult for people to understand who have never played football or sport at the highest level.

"Certainly, we have to do something about it to try to eradicate it. Whether it's a realistic chance, I don't know. But we have to work towards trying to improve the respect that we have for each other on the pitch."

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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