Arsène Wenger tells how diet pills led to Kolo Touré's failed test

Arsène Wenger tells how diet pills led to Kolo Touré's failed testKolo Touré made an emotional telephone call to his mentor Arsène Wenger on Thursday night to reveal his anguish at the error of judgment that led to him failing a drugs test and facing a lengthy suspension.

Wenger, the Arsenal manager, who had Touré in north London with him for seven years before he sold him to Manchester City in the summer of 2009, said that the defender had told him he had taken a dietary pill to combat a weight issue but he was unaware that it contained a specified substance.

Touré must now await the result of tests on a B sample before he discovers his fate, with the authorities empowered to ban him for up to two years. Typical penalties for the 29-year-old's offence range between four and nine months. Wenger, who has emerged as a pillar of support, said he would remain in touch with Touré, whom he described as "devastated".

"Kolo called me and, of course, he is shocked by the situation because you know Kolo," Wenger said. "He is a guy who never prepared himself to be in this kind of situation and so it is a big shock for him. He wanted to lose weight a little bit and his wife was on a diet and that's where 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. It is a blow for City as well. But nothing has been decided yet."

It was put to Wenger that Touré, who returned the positive A sample after the derby defeat at Manchester United on 12 February, in which he was an unused substitute, could consider himself unlucky as he had merely erred unwittingly.

"It is true but, legally, what is forbidden is forbidden," Wenger said. "The mistake he made is not to have asked the doctor of Man City, 'Can I take that or not?' You must say as well that he was unlucky because he was done in the doping control after Man United and he didn't play. That means he has one chance out of nine to be picked."

Wenger said he would happily provide a character witness for Touré if required. Wenger took Touré as a young player from ASEC Mimosas in the Ivory Coast and the defender enjoyed a successful career at Arsenal. Touré will be remembered as one of the Premier League Invincibles of 2003-04.

"Kolo is genuine, honest, highly motivated, good at work every day," Wenger said. "The problem was to get him off the pitch, it was not to put him on. He is open. You have seen him here, so you know, but you do not need to see him here to know how he lives.

"He is a boy who has a clean life, a very honest living, he is always at home. He is a family man and I do not suspect him at all to have taken drugs to enhance his performance. I just think it is a mistake, him forgetting 'Can I take that?' He wants to control his weight a little bit because that's where he has some problems and he took the product of his wife. Never trust your wife!

"It was completely the kind of stupid thing that can happen to you where you are punished in life. You cross the road, don't look right, left, boom. People don't ask if you deserve or not deserve."

Touré was omitted from the City squad that beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup on Wednesday when the result of his A sample became known and he will not be able to play again until his B sampleis tested and the Football Association disciplinary process is completed. It would be incumbent on him to prove "no fault or negligence" in allowing the substance to enter his body. Wenger said he did not know which specific substance had seen Touré fall foul of the regulations.

City issued a statement on Thursday in which they confirmed Touré's positive sample and that, as a result, "he has been suspended from participating in all first-team matches pending the outcome of the legal process". They did not add to their statement on Friday.

Powered by article was written by David Hytner, for The Guardian on Saturday 5th March 2011 00.03 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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