On the 4th March 2011 the FA informed Manchester City that their defender, and former captain, Kolo Toure had tested positive for a ‘specified substance’ in his ‘A-sample’ taken after the Manchester derby just under a month ago. Toure now faces a legal process and has been suspended from first-team duties indefinitely whilst this process gets underway. Toure however does have the support of his manager Roberto Mancini who, speaking after watching his side beat Wigan Athletic said, ‘this victory is for Kolo. Kolo is a fantastic man; he is a serious professional player.’ Toure’s younger brother Yaya, a recent acquisition to the revolution at Eastlands, has also (as expected) leapt to the defence of his sibling. ‘My brother is damaged,’ claimed Yaya, ‘and the squad is affected because Kolo is an important man for us and one of our captains.’
It is unknown as of yet what punishment Toure will receive after all, punishments range from a warning to a two year suspension – but Toure is unlikely to receive a penalty that harsh given the nature of his offence. According to Arsene Wenger, Toure took a diet pill belonging to his wife in order to control his weight and is now paying the price for his naivety in taking the pill.
It seems unlikely that Toure will escape this drugs debacle unblemished, and questions have been asked as to whether he deserves to remain unpunished. Cheating in sport is a contentious issue, especially when it comes down to drugs and whether they enhance a player’s performance. QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny picked up a nine month ban for a positive test after taking ephedrine as part of a cough medicine. Kenny took this substance inadvertently, yet he was not spared a ban and neither was Rio Ferdinand in 2003. After failing to attend a drugs test Ferdinand received an eight month ban and £50,000 fine. It appears as though naivety is not an excuse for taking an illegal substance.
At a club like Manchester City with its colossal wealth and impressive facilities there is no excuse for Kolo Toure to take these pills. It begs the question as to why a professional footballer costing £16 million, earning more money in a week than most people do in a year and with access to world class nutritionists, fitness trainers and equipment finds it necessary to take a diet pill. What was Toure’s motivation in taking those pills? Was it to preserve his body so that he could perform to the highest level possible for as long as possible in order to remain at the club – thus retaining his pay packet? Or was it simply a calamitous mistake? It may appear pathetic that taking something as simple as that could lead to a ban, but the rules are strict and the rules are clear and Toure has been around long enough to know that by now. The drugs tests are completely random and unexpected, but a player should always expect one. Like Arsene Wenger said if you cross the road without looking you might get away with it, alternatively you might get hit. If you have a few pints on a Friday night then drive home you might get away with it, you might not. If you go to the casino and put all your money on red it might land on red, but it might land on black. That’s life.
Kolo Toure might be the ultimate professional, the gentleman on and off the pitch. But he might be a drugs cheat. We don’t know and we might never know. But what we do know is that he was stupid enough and naive enough to place himself in this situation and now he must deal with the consequences, however severe.