Deco punished for doping but free to play

Rio de Janeiro, June 15 (IANS) Former Portugal star Deco is free to resume his career after a Brazilian sports tribunal accepted that he unwittingly took a banned substance.

But a doping panel ruled the 35-year-old was responsible for his actions and handed him a 30-day suspension. The penalty was backdated to May 7, meaning he can play immediately for his club Fluminense, reports Xinhua.

Deco expressed a mixture of frustration and relief upon leaving the hearing Friday, claiming the episode had stained his reputation.

"In my opinion it is unfair. I should have been absolved. I wanted my name to be cleared because I know I am innocent. But the most important thing is that now I can get back to playing," Deco said.

There had been fears Deco would be barred from playing for two years under Brazilian football's strict drug code as he tested positive to the diuretic furosemide after Fluminense's Campeonato Carioca match against Boavista in April.

The substance is banned due to its use as a masking agent for other drugs.

During a four-hour hearing Friday, Deco's doctor Sergio Puppin and biochemist Luciana Figueiredo presented arguments in the midfielder's defence.

Puppin said he had prescribed vitamin supplements to help Deco overcome recurring leg muscle injuries during the past two seasons, adding the pharmacy had unknowingly supplied supplements with traces of furosemide.

Figueiredo argued that Deco needed a level of the substance 1,000 times higher than that found in his system to feel a doping effect.

During his testimony, Deco asked the panel to consider his controversy-free 18-year professional career, which has also included spells at Porto, Barcelona and Cheslea.

The playmaker has sought to avoid the public eye since news of his failed sample emerged last month. But in a statement released after his failed B sample, Deco vowed he would "stop at nothing" to clear his name of the allegations.

He will travel with his teammates to Orlando Saturday where Fluminense will train during a two-week hiatus in Brazil's Serie A while the Confederations Cup is played.

Deco said he was determined to put the ordeal behind him.