Toure has slim hopes of escape
Manchester City defender Kolo Toure is unlikely to avoid a severe penalty simply by arguing that his ingestion of a banned substance was inadvertent if, as Arsene Wenger claimed yesterday, his defence is that his failed drugs test was the result of taking his wife's slimming pills.
Toure spent yesterday discussing his options with his legal advisers and City's solicitor Simon Cliff, but it is understood that the club are prepared to stand by the £14m defender, regardless of the outcome of events.
But in an extraordinary intervention, Wenger said that he had spoken with Toure, a former Arsenal player, and that he had told him he had taken a dietary aid to help him lose weight, without checking its contents.
The exact nature of the banned substance or substances that appeared in Toure's sample remains unknown, but if a diet pill is the source, it could contain any number of stimulants and diuretics designed to suppress appetite and speed the metabolism.
Wenger said that Toure took the pill "because he wanted to control his weight a little bit", adding: "It was a mistake, he was not cautious enough."
Under the World Anti-Doping Agency's 'strict liability' approach, the burden of proving innocence lies with Toure. Ignorance is no defence under the Wada Code, which requires athletes to be responsible for everything in their body.
Wada's official website warns athletes that "extreme caution is recommended regarding supplement use", and that the "use of dietary supplements by athletes is a concern" because of the possibility of the presence of substances which are "prohibited under anti-doping regulations".
The guidelines also go on to make clear that "taking a poorly-labelled dietary supplement is not an adequate defence in a doping hearing".
Wenger's suggestion that Toure's motivation was to lose weight and thereby improve his chances of returning to the first team is unlikely to assist the player's case if it is repeated in disciplinary proceedings.
It is understood that the closest high-profile parallel with Toure's case is that of cricketer Shane Warne, who was banned for a year in 2003 after he tested for a banned diuretic that he said was contained in one of his grandmother's diet pills.
Despite arguing that he had taken the substance inadvertently, Warne was banned for 12 months.
The positive result of Toure's A sample, provided following the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on February 12 when the player was an unused substitute, has led to a widespread sense of surprise within the game.
Wenger, who signed Toure for Arsenal from ASEC Abidjan in February 2002, said: "He wanted to lose weight a little bit and his wife was on a diet and that's when he took this product.
"He is devastated because you can be suspended once you are positive and people don't consider too much why you did it. They just punish you."
Fulham manager Mark Hughes, who signed Toure for City in June 2009, echoed Wenger's sentiment by admitting his hope for a satisfactory outcome for the Ivorian defender.
"I like Kolo as a guy. He leads his life in the right way," said Hughes. "Hopefully it will be resolved and he will be able to continue his career." (© Daily Telegraph, London)