Cascarino claims: 'I took suspect drugs in Marseille'

Mitch Phillips

FORMER Irish international striker Tony Cascarino yesterday claimed that he regularly received injections of unknown drugs to enhance his performance while playing for French club Olympique Marseille in the 1990s.

Jean Duby, who was Marseille's club doctor from 1986 to 1995, last night angrily denied that he had done anything improper. "There was no doping in Marseille. I have 40 years of experience and that's something I have never done," he insisted.

In his weekly column for a British newspaper, Cascarino said that it was normal practice for most of the Marseille players to be given an injection by the club doctor before all their home games.

"To this day I don't have a clue what it was. The doctor would only tell me that it would give me an adrenalin boost and I never felt inclined to ask the rest," Cascarino said.

"Whatever the substance was, my performances improved. I cling to the sliver of hope that it was legal, though in reality I'm 99 percent sure it wasn't."

Cascarino said that, as a foreigner and newcomer to the team, he would have felt uncomfortable declining. "I was fortunate that I was never caught," he added. "Most of the Marseille players were participating, so it seemed silly to decline and make a fuss."

Cascarino claimed that Bernard Tapie, the club owner at the time, made it clear to him that his place in the team depended on his taking part in the injection programme.

"He (Tapie) reveled in the initiation ceremony when a new player was to have his first jab, lifting up the back of his shirt and waiting for a staple-gun, laden with 20 needles, to be injected into his lower back," he said. "He stretched his arms, clenched his fists and roared with approval."

The striker claimed that the jabs, given 45-60 minutes before kick-off, made him feel sharper and more energetic.

Cascarino, who scored 61 league goals in two seasons with Marseille from 1994 to earn the nickname 'Tony Goal,' said that he asked the club masseur if the injections were legal and was told they were "okay."

He added that the jabs were given only before home games and that he did not take them before European ties because he was worried about UEFA's stricter testing programme.

Cascarino said that the jabs were a source of banter from opponents and that, when he left to join French club Nancy, his new team-mates used to tease him about the drugs, mimicking an injection in the arm.

Meanwhile, the International Tennis Federation said yesterday that the retesting of urine samples from the U.S. Open and Davis Cup had produced no positive findings for the steroid THG.