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Feb 24, 2009

Mannini and Possanzini can appeal drugs ban

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Tuesday it would not stand in the way of an appeal by two Italian footballers banned for a year after turning up late for a 2007 drugs test.

Napoli winger Daniele Mannini and Brescia striker Davide Possanzini were suspended last month by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after WADA challenged the original 15-day ban issued by the Italian Olympic Committee.

CAS partially upheld WADA's appeal, finding a two-year ban would have been the normal mandatory punishment but reducing it to one year after ruling the players bore "no significant fault" for providing the late samples.

"We are not saying we would support a lesser sanction," WADA director general David Howman told a news briefing.

"But we received an application from the players concerned for the case to be reopened and we have said to the court if they have the ability to do that, we will not oppose it."

Mannini and Possanzini, who were both playing for Brescia in December 2007, were ordered to attend a post-match dressing down by their coach following the club's third successive defeat.

The detour made them up to 25 minutes late for the test which players are supposed to make themselves available for as soon as possible.

The pair are now seeking to have CAS re-examine their case based on what their lawyers say will be new evidence not presented in the original trial.

President John Fahey said the possible new evidence was the only reason for WADA to permit a re-opening of the case.

"It's just natural justice, without saying they have been denied justice so far," Fahey said.

"If they can substantiate to the court there is new factual information to justify it then there should be a re-hearing. But it will be up to the court to decide."

The decision to ban Mannini and Possanzini was strongly condemned by the Italian players' association which arranged a 15-minute delay to the kickoff of all Serie A and B matches at the weekend following the CAS announcement.

The association described the verdict as a "scandalous sentence" while the players' clubs and the Italian soccer federation said they would help back any appeal.

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