Diego Maradona, the best-known soccer player in the world, tested positive Friday for cocaine use and will be suspended for up to two years.
The startling announcement by the Italian Soccer Federation came less than a year after the moody forward led Argentina to its second consecutive World Cup final and Napoli to its second Italian League championship.The length of the suspension will be decided by the disciplinary commission of the Italian League, which is expected to meet next week. Italian soccer regulations call for a minimum suspension of six months and a maximum of two years.
The ban automatically will be extended worldwide by the International Federation of Association Football, making the 30-year-old Maradona ineligible to play for Argentina in this summer's America Cup, the South American championship.
Napoli reported Thursday that Maradona had tested positive following its 1-0 victory over Bari on March 17. A second test was conducted Friday and the Italian federation immediately made the announcement.
"The second test, in the presence of representatives of the player and his club, confirmed results of the first test," the federation said in a statement. "Maradona tested positive for cocaine and its metabolites."
In the most recent doping case in Italian soccer, AS Roma forward Andrea Carnevale and goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi were suspended for one year for testing positive for what the players said was weight-loss medication.
Maradona's representative at Friday's test was Manfred Donike of Germany, a doctor who defended Ben Johnson when the Canadian sprinter tested positive at the Seoul Olympics.
Johnson is just returning to track and field following a two-year suspension for using steroids before the 1988 Summer Games. With Maradona's suspension, two of the biggest sports stars on the world stage have shattered their careers by drug use.