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By ESPN Staff

Italian games to start late in protest at doping bans

Serie A and B matches this weekend will kick off 15 minutes late in protest at the outcome of a doping case, the Italian players' association said on Friday.

Daniele Mannini and Davide Possanzini were banned for a year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday for arriving late for a drugs test at a match in December 2007 while playing for Serie B side Brescia.

''The board of the Italian players' association (AIC), in solidarity with players Mannini and Possanzini and in protest at the scandalous sentence given to them, has decided that teams will enter the field 15 minutes late in the next round of Serie A and B,'' AIC said in a statement.

The pair were banned for 15 days in March by an Italian Olympic Committee judge but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed to CAS and asked for tougher sentences.

Winger Mannini joined top-flight Napoli from Brescia in January last year while Possanzini is still at the Serie B side.

AIC proposed delaying the kickoff of the season-opening matches in August in protest at rules limiting the number of players in lower league match squads but the action never went ahead.

AIC's outrage at the one-year bans has been shared by the players' clubs, who have said they will stand by the pair, while the Italian soccer federation is looking at possible ways of appealing the decision.

CAS said on Thursday that because the players had not given a doping sample, they must face a tougher sanction than the 15-day ban for being late handed down by the Italian authorities.

WADA had asked for a ban of one to two years but CAS opted for a one-year suspension because ''the panel ruled that although the players remain at fault, they were entitled to benefit from a finding of 'no significant fault'.''

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was banned for eight months for missing a drugs test in 2003 and his fellow England players threatened strike action before backing down.

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