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Mar 14, 2007

Drug test may cost Lazaridis his career

A hair loss remedy could cost former Socceroo Stan Lazaridis his football career after the A-League star privately came to terms with a positive drug test which could result in a two-year ban.

After originally planning to comment publicly on his positive test for banned substance finasteride, Lazaridis and his club ultimately kept quiet to comply with Football Federation Australia's anti-doping policy.

Instead, Professional Footballer's Association chief executive Brendan Schwab vowed to fight to save Lazaridis' career - despite worldwide precedents showing the former Premier League star was in grave danger of being banned for his use of the hair restoration chemical.

"(A two-year ban) is obviously extremely serious, especially where Stan is at with his career," Schwab said.

"The medicine prescribed is by no means a performance-enhancing drug - (it) treats Stan's condition which has been diagnosed as alopecia, which is a very severe form of hair loss and also (causes) discomfort to Stan's skin.

"If Stan is to suffer suspension which we will do our very best to avoid, it will be for taking a substance he is authorised to use.

"And clearly he would not have had that authorisation if it wasn't accepted he had a genuine medical need."

Perth Glory confirmed on Tuesday night the 34-year-old had received notice from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) of a positive finding on a test sample taken in November 2006.

Lazaridis tested positive for finasteride - which WADA regards as a possible steroid masking agent - two months before being granted a therapeutic-use exemption from the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee (ASDMAC).

And with Lazaridis said to be very concerned about his future, the PFA said he had employed senior legal counsel to state his case when it comes before an FFA doping tribunal over the next month.

"He will conduct himself in this manner in keeping with the high standards of professionalism and sportsmanship he has demonstrated throughout his illustrious career," Schwab said.

Revealing the levels of the drug to which Lazaridis was prescribed and tested were nowhere near those used as a masking agent, Schwab said the issue was not relevant because football authorities knew about his medical condition and had accepted it as genuine.

"From our point of view this is a tragic case of a player who has a serious medical condition," Schwab said.

"He has received the appropriate clearance from the relevant authorities and really faces a potential (drug) hearing due to the timing of the clearance.

"It was not until he returned to Australia the relevant authorities was able to get the approval for the purposes of Australia.

"So we have an issue of timing which we will certainly address in due course."

Several cases around the world involving positive tests for finasteride have produced bans of varying length - although one major element in Lazaridis' favour is a FIFA rule allowing national soccer associations to reduce bans for mitigating circumstances.

Last year, Argentine tennis player Mariano Hood was banned for a year for testing positive at the 2005 French Grand Slam tennis tournament.

US skeleton rider Zach Lund was banned from the Torino Winter Olympics for a similar offence, although his argument was he didn't know the drug had been added to the list of prohibited substances.

And in 2005, German footballer Nemanja Vucicevic from second division side TSV 1860 Munich was suspended for six months after a positive test.