Cristiano Ronaldo could have a two-year ban on his hands following his early exit from the Allianz Stadium on Monday, according to former Italy striker Antonio Cassano.
The Portuguese superstar walked off the pitch and straight down the tunnel after being substituted in the 55th minute against AC Milan. The forward appeared to shoot a look at manager Maurizio Sarri and mutter something angrily under his breath as he came off.
Cassano – who enjoyed spells at Milan, Inter, Roma and Real Madrid, among others – brought up the possibility when discussing his own similar experience and warned Ronaldo that he could potentially be in violation of anti-doping regulations.
“Did he leave before the end of the game?” Cassano asked on Italian television show Tika-Taka. “You can't do that because there is an anti-doping control.” The 37-year-old likened Ronaldo’s experience to his own when he left the Stadio Olimpico early while representing Roma.
“I had to go back to the stadium urgently to avoid a two-year ban,” said Cassano who opted for an early exit during the match against arch rivals Lazio.
There is absolutely no suggestion that Ronaldo left the Allianz in order to avoid a doping test. Sarri commented, stating he understood the forward’s frustration and that there was ‘no problem’.
The ex-Chelsea manager explained that his decision to substitute Ronaldo was down to an injury he is currently carrying.
“Over the last month, he has had this little knee problem, he had a knock in training and it hurt the collateral ligament,” Sarri told Sky Sport Italia after the 1-0 win over Milan. “It is affecting his performances and he is not at his best at the moment.
“He did everything possible to play, but I saw he was not well and thought it best to take him off.”
Despite there being no implication that Ronaldo was avoiding a doping test, footballers before him have paid a high price for being in violation of anti-doping rules.
Ex-Peterborough United defender Josh Yorwerth was released from the club and given a four-year ban by the FA for evading a doping test. The 24-year-old was sacked by Posh in February this year after breaking anti-doping protocol and being discovered to have taken cocaine.
Similarly, England centre back (and Ronaldo teammate at the time) Rio Ferdinand was issued an eight-month ban back in 2003 for failing to attend a drug testing. Playing for Manchester United at the time, the defender was found guilty of misconduct and was branded the most controversial FA case since Eric Cantona’s ‘kung-fu kick’ in 1995.
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However, Ronaldo was accused last year of interfering with a mandatory and surprise drug test during his time with Real Madrid. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner reportedly disrupted the testing after complaining that “he was always selected”. Madrid’s medical team stepped in to take over the testing from UEFA representatives after Ronaldo’s complaints.
No action was taken against the 34-year-old, with UEFA ruling the situation as an “exceptional circumstance” due to the “tension” caused.
“All players who are trying to give their best will have at least five minutes of being annoyed when they are substituted,” said Sarri in his post-match interview. “But a coach would in general be much more worried if he didn't seem upset.”
Ronaldo’s replacement Paulo Dybala went on to score the winning goal against AC Milan and put Juventus back atop the Serie A table.
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