Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chelsea's Vindictive Pursuit of Adrian Mutu Over Drugs Shame: Just Wrong?

In July of this year, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against Adrian Mutu's appeal against FIFA for a breach of contract. As a result, the Fiorentina player was ordered to pay his old employers, Chelsea, £14.65 million. Was the result fair?

In 2003, Claudio Ranieri was directly ordered by Roman Abrahmovich to sign Romanian striker Mutu from Parma for a fee of around £16 million. The Russian oligarch wanted his team to have a certain style and panache and saw Mutu as the ideal signing, ahead of Ronaldinho, who he thought was too much of a playboy.

Life at Chelsea started well for the most expensive Romanian player of the time. Four goals in his first three matches, including a double against Spurs meant that Chelsea fans took him immediately to heart.

But as the season went on, personal issues with his now ex-wife and a problem with settling in London began to take it's toll, and he slowly became a more peripheral figure with only six goals from 27 games.

With problems in his personal life mounting, Mutu was constantly hounded by his country's paparazzi and was photographed in numerous predicaments, most notably having sex with Romanian porn star, Laura Andresan.

Jose Mourinho took over from the sacked Tinker-Man and almost immediately the the striker and manager came to blows over the players attitude.

Mutu only made two appearances as a substitute under his new manager before the duo became embroiled in a battle across several newspapers over an alleged injury the Romanian had.

His Portuguese manager deemed the player unfit, and that he could not train. Logically, he could not represent his country in a World Cup Qualifier against the Czech Republic. Mutu said he was fully fit and played in the 1-0 defeat on October 9th.

On his return to England, the player was fined two weeks wages by his manager for disobeying his orders not to play.

The war of words between manager and player continued over the following week, each calling the other a liar, and culminated with the player allegedly walking out on the club on October 16th after a confrontation with Mourinho.

The following day, Mutu failed to show up for training, with two other players.

Mutu had this to say "I admit that in the heat of our confrontation I did threaten Mourinho. And, in a moment of total madness I almost hit him."

Obvious bad blood between the two, almost resulting in a fight.

However, Mutu had recently undergone a "random" a drugs test in September, which he consequently failed. The test turned out to be not so random, as Chelsea had already ordered Mutu to have a test in July, which he passed.

This test was by Chelsea and was as such not sanctioned by the FA, who fined the club over the breach of etiquette. The September test was also unsanctioned.

Initially he denied taking cocaine, saying he only took a recreation substance to help his sex life.

Under intense pressure from the PFA, Chelsea, and his own conscience, Mutu reluctantly admitted that he did take drugs on the 19th of October and declined to have his B-sample tested.

The strategy behind the admittance was to avoid the possibility of increasing any ban from the game he may face.
A PFA spokesman said "If the player accepts that he is guilty and if he is prepared to undertake rehabilitation, be checked regularly and to be clean then there is greater sympathy towards the player."
A precedent had already been set in 2002, when Mark Bosnich had been banned from the game for nine months for taking cocaine, while also at Chelsea.

In that case Chelsea sacked Bosnich in September 2002, the 'keeper had only signed from Manchester United in January 2001.

On October 29th, 2004, Chelsea sacked Adrian Mutu and released a statement on the matter.
The statement explained their decision:"We want to make clear that Chelsea has a zero tolerance policy towards drugs.

"This applies to both performance-enhancing drugs or so-called 'recreational' drugs. They have no place at our club or in sport.

"In coming to a decision on this case, Chelsea believed the club's social responsibility to its fans, players, employees and other stakeholders in football regarding drugs was more important than the major financial considerations to the company.

"Any player who takes drugs breaches his contract with the club as well as Football Association rules.

"The club totally supports the FA in strong action on all drugs cases."
Under FIFA rules at the time, Mutu was set to get a minimum of a six month ban as this was his first drugs offence.

One week later Adrian Mutu was handed a seven month ban by the FA, was fined £20,000, and had to undergo an education and rehabilitation program during his suspension.

Somewhat ironically, the ban Mutu received was one month less than the ban Rio Ferdinand received for missing a drugs test while playing for Manchester United.

With Mutu off their books and suspended, Chelsea took the unprecedented step to seek compensation from the player they had sacked. The Pensioners sought £8 million from the player based on a potential transfer fee for his sale that they never received.

Eventually on June 6th, 2008, FIFA ordered Mutu to compensate Chelsea the sum of £9.6 million.

The Romanian refused to pay the fine, feeling he was being unfairly treated, and brought his case onwards to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
"It is an unjust and inhumane sentence," said Mutu, on September 2008.
"This sanction is not right, because I don't think I have committed a crime that merits such an amount."
The international players union FIFPRO gave Mutu their full backing and assistance during his appeal on the grounds of discrimination.
"When the same offence would have been committed by a player in possession of an English passport, then this player wouldn't have had to pay any damages at this dismissal, since the FA Premier League rules do not provide this," said a FIFPRO statement.
"For this reason this can be considered as discrimination based on nationality.

"It is extremely strange that a player who is dismissed by a club must pay damages based on the transfer amount previously paid for him, whilst he has had no control whatsoever on the amount of this fee."
That case was lost on July 31st, 2009, when the CAS ordered Mutu to pay £14.65 million compensation to Chelsea, with a further five percent interest on top of that if the loan is not paid.

The CAS ruled against Mutu under the grounds that he had breached his contract with Chelsea by taking drugs. The new compensation figure was based on Chelsea's loss of earnings through merchandise and transfer fees.

A Chelsea statement after the finding read: "Not only did the Dispute Resolution Chamber make us a very significant monetary award, it also recognised the damaging effect incidents involving drugs have on football and the responsibility we all have in this area."

The latest ruling was the third time that CAS had been involved in the case.
"In 2005, CAS confirmed the decision of the Football Association Premier League Appeals Committee finding that, because of a positive doping test, Mutu had committed a breach of the employment contract without just cause," added the CAS statement.
A well-positioned sports lawyer in London declared the finding in Chelsea's favour as "monkey logic."

During those four years fighting the compensation case, Adrian Mutu's career picked up under Fabio Capello at Juventus before he moved to current club Fiorentina.

It has been a tough time for the Romanian. Fighting against the might of his old club in and out of court.
"Away from the pitch I'm not OK," he admits. "How could I be? That fine is a very particular thing which affects me on a very personal level. I think I have amply paid for an error of youth which is light years away from the man and footballer I am now."
"I can't pay such a sum," Mutu has pleaded. "It's not a question of will but rather understanding of a rational and natural principle of not being capable."
Chelsea may feel vindicated by the compensation they may receive, but one can't help but think that the punishment does not fit the crime.

Here you have one of the richest clubs in the world, owned by a world reknowned Russian oligarch, they have written off transfer fees for players like Juan Sebastian Veron, Andriy Shevchenko, and Hernan Crespo, to get them off their books, but yet they pursue a player for money he obviously doesn't have for one mistake that he made?

But not only that, the very same mistake a fellow Chelsea player had made some years before, but who didn't have to pay compensation after his sacking.

Would Chelsea actually try to ruin a person's career?

With all avenues now closed to him, Mutu has gone back to Chelsea and offered to give charities in Romania, England, and Italy substantial donations.

Chelsea who claim that they have only pursued him to make a point may yet be convinced to go down this path. The London club are more than entitled to be angry at Mutu for his initial seven month suspension, but it was they who hastily sacked him and set this whole series of events spiralling in this direction.

An older and wiser Mutu gave an interview recently, in it he claimed to be a different person to the one who was going through a torrid time in 2004.
Now happily married to his second wife, and with two daughters he said "I am 30. I am another Mutu. A much more responsible one. For me, my family is more important than football. Period."
"Florence is home for me. People here love me and I have forgotten about the cocaine. Without meaning any offence, I would not go back to London if they paid me a fortune in gold. I've got nothing against English people—they are very nice and they are crazy for football. But nowhere is as good as Florence for me."
One can't help but feel that the club have victimised Mutu. He was wrong in taking drugs, but it would seem that his real guilt was in admitting it, unlike Bosnich.

They have pursued him as far as they can and they seem adamant that they will have their pound of flesh.

Mutu is a very different player to the one who made a mistake five years ago, Chelsea are a different club too, with a different manager in charge. They've proved their point.

Time to let bygones by bygones.

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