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By ESPN Staff

Pardew defends decision to stand by Newton

West Ham insist their decision to stand by Shaun Newton after the midfielder tested positive for cocaine does not mean they are soft on drugs.

Newton was tested after West Ham's FA Cup semi-final win over Middlesbrough on April 23 - a game in which he played just one minute as a substitute - and banned for seven months.

West Ham manager Alan Pardew has taken a hard line against ill-discipline during his time at Upton Park.

So by deciding not to cancel Newton's contract and follow the recent example set by Chelsea in the cases of Mark Bosnich and Adrian Mutu, Pardew left himself open to criticism.

Only two months ago West Ham signed Lee Bowyer, who tested positive for a banned substance while with Charlton 12 years ago.

But Pardew insists his stance towards Newton does not mean West Ham are at all tolerant of drug use - either for recreational or performance-enhancing reasons.

Pardew said: 'It infuriates me to hear of drug use in any sport - there is absolutely no place for it. It is a belief I have always held, so for it to occur at West Ham United is something that hurts and saddens me.

'I have seen at first hand the emotional and personal hell that Shaun has been through in recent weeks and our priority must be to help him - not abandon him. I hope his experience serves as a lesson to any sportsperson.

'Although we will continue to help and support Shaun through this difficult time, we are also acutely aware of our responsibilities as a club and he will face internal disciplinary action.'

Pardew has been backed in his decision by the majority of West Ham fans who took part in an unofficial straw poll on supporters' website

But the club are anxious the affair does not tarnish the reputation they worked so hard to build last season, when West Ham reached the FA Cup final, qualified for the UEFA Cup and finished ninth in the Premiership.

Niall Clarke, West Ham's head of sports medicine, insisted: 'In no way do we condone the taking of any performance-enhancing drugs or stimulants.

'We have a strict code of behaviour at the club and take meticulous care in ensuring that every product we use or give to our players follows the strict guidelines laid out by the FA, UK Sport and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).

'We have always fully supported the FA's Doping Control Programme, which is an important and integral part of maintaining health and fairness within the game.

'We have always taken the utmost care with any preparations or medications administered to our players, and are extremely disappointed that Shaun has tested positive for cocaine.'

Newton is thought to have taken the cocaine in a week when he started two Premiership games for West Ham before being named on the bench for the FA Cup semi-final.

He is fortunate that football is not yet signed up to the World Anti-Doping Code.

Newton will be available for West Ham's clash with Fulham on December 23 - while Australian rugby international Wendell Sailor is facing a mandatory two-year ban after also testing positive for cocaine.