How Rio's furious foul-mouthed rant at me shows he STILL doesn't get point about missing drugs tests
I returned from holiday on Friday night, went upstairs and turned on my computer.
I looked at my Twitter feed. There was a Direct Message from Rio Ferdinand, the kind his million or so followers can’t see.
“You fat prick,” it began.
I made a mental note to call Kolo Toure and ask for a tub of his wife’s diet pills.
Then I read on.
“U got something to say about me missing a drugs test say it when u see me,” Ferdinand had written. “You have had many opportunities but said nothing.”
Many opportunities? That’s about as funny as saying Rio had many opportunities to tackle Lionel Messi in the Champions League Final.
Anyway, the next day, after the England-Switzerland game at Wembley, I said it when I saw him.
It wasn’t easy. He didn’t stop when he moved through the Mixed Zone where journalists wait behind barriers for players.
Maybe he was still trying to chase the cross he’d let float over his head for the first Swiss goal.
Darren Bent had missed a sitter but he was fronting up to the press. So were John Terry, Jack Wilshere, Ashley Young and James Milner.
But Rio was in a sulk, marching through, looking for the exit. I was standing next to it so it was hard for him to avoid me.
He was up for a row, no question. He strode over, all mean and moody.
Having ducked a confrontation with Fabio Capello over being deposed as England skipper, he was due a ruck with someone.
He was angry. In fact, he was outraged. He was even indignant.
He was appalled, he said, because his name had been brought into a Twitter debate about Toure getting a six month ban for snacking on Mrs Toure’s slimming tablets.
Manchester United fans on the site said Toure’s ban was pathetic. He would serve some of it in the summer, sunning himself on a beach. They were right about that.
But they also pointed out that Rio got eight months just for missing a drugs test in September 2003. They said this was not fair.
My crime was to point out that, actually, it was totally fair. Missing a test is as bad as testing positive. It has to be.
I had also pointed out that no-one, except Rio, will ever know whether he had something to hide. So we went over all of it again in the Mixed Zone. And Rio grew more and more apoplectic.
He seemed most angry of all because the subject had been aired on Twitter, which was puzzling.
The facts were all in the public domain anyway. I had written everything I wrote on Twitter many times before in The Mirror.
But it became clear as he raved that Ferdinand sees discussing those kinds of things on Twitter as off limits.
Many of his tweets are either plugs for his magazine, restaurant or official app on Android. Or inanities that end with the hashtag #oooff or #aaviit.
“You can’t put stuff like that on Twitter,” he said, as a small crowd began to gather round in the Mixed Zone.
I said I was just joining in a debate. I thought that was the point of Twitter. That’s why I don’t do Direct Messages.
“You have to rise above it,” he said, scolding. Then, he jabbed his finger into his chest. “That’s what we do,” he said.
He said that like he was standing on a castle rampart somewhere with his fellow officers, looking down at his army of Twitter followers on the plain below.
Then things got more bizarre.
Rio’s righteous indignation kicked in. Big time.
He’d had a hair follicle test some time after he missed the test at the United training ground in 2003, he said, and it had proved he hadn’t been taking drugs.
“Isn’t that good enough for you?” he said, as if I was some particularly cruel and unreasonable inquisitor.
Somebody from the FA arrived at this point and tried to soothe him. Rio wasn’t having it.
“Isn’t that good enough for you?” he said again. Slightly more urgently this time. It’s truly astonishing that after all this time, he still doesn’t get it. He’s a bright bloke, too, so actually, it’s more than astonishing.
Put together with Toure’s ignorance, it suggests football and footballers are still living in a state of wilful denial about drug testing.
So I told Ferdinand it wasn’t good enough for me because it wasn’t good enough for the anti-doping authorities that administer drugs tests for athletes in this country.
If you miss a test, it’s no good offering to go a couple of hours later because if you have something to hide in your system, you could have hidden it by then.
You could have flushed it out, catheterised yourself to remove suspect urine from your bladder.
Or drunk so much water that it would render any test invalid.
And the hair follicle test? Sorry, but that’s an irrelevance, too.
I double-checked that with Michael Stow, the head of Science and Medicine at UK Anti-Doping, yesterday just to be sure.
A hair follicle test would have proved that Ferdinand wasn’t taking cocaine, for example, and would have ruled out many other recreational drugs.
But it would not have tested for Human Growth Hormone or for the blood booster Erythropoietin(EPO). Or for other substances on the Prohibited List.
None of this is anything personal against Ferdinand. It’s not about him.
It’s about a wider principle.
He can call me fat, hippy, Mancunian, whiney, dumb, ugly, spotty or whatever he wants. It isn’t going to make the slightest difference.
At a time when the revered cyclist Lance Armstrong is being investigated by a federal grand jury in the US, when much of sport is under siege from drugs, it’s about trying to hold back the tide.
For what it’s worth, my instinct tells me that Ferdinand probably didn’t have anything to hide when he missed his test eight years ago.
But I’ll never know for sure if I’m right.
I told him that, too.
“You’re a cock,” he said.
Then security stepped between us.
The Placido Domingo development has taken Fifa beyond parody.
Sepp Blatter has ruined the World Cup and now he’s turning the whole of football into a laughing stock.