Sepp, Drugs and Rock N' Roll

Pele, the man who fellow Brazilian hero Romario famously called "an old retard", has spent the last few days in an apparent attempt to prove the point.

In remarks last week that were supposed to be off the record, but which were secretly recorded by a Brazilian radio station, The Black Pearl, in response to a question, commented that "It's unfair to talk of drugs in football just because of one or two cases, as happened with Ronaldo and Robinho, who had that problem."

Needless to say, both the named parties were unhappy with the reference, and ROBINHO DEMANDED AN APOLOGY and followed that up by threatening to sue.

Since the only income Pele has these days is the money he gets for being Sepp Blatter's pet show pony, he quickly backtracked, saying that the comments, which were recorded and broadcast, were in fact "a misunderstanding, because I didn't say that at all, maybe they took him the wrong information"

Those pesky audio tapes. Always taking "the wrong information".

For his part, Robinho was WILLING TO PRETEND that he believed this nonsense, and Pele helpfully offered that perhaps everyone was really referring to his comments about Robinho's sexual assault arrest and Ronaldo's citation for hiring three transvestite prostitutes.

Which, of course, is much, much better.

In any case, the reason Pele was discussing the drug issue at all instead of sitting on a dais eating Cream of Wheat, signing a few autographs and then getting bundled off for his nappy-nap, as is now normal for his public appearances, is because Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have dug in their heels with the World Anti-Doping Agency and it's looking a lot like the spillover will have ramifications far beyond whether Ronaldo is sticking stuff up his nose.

At issue is the new WADA regulation regarding the availability of "World Class" athletes for random drug testing.

The rules now state that athletes must provide the agency with a schedule three months in advance, telling them where they will be for one hour each day, in case the WADA wants to send someone by with a specimen cup.

Blatter and Platini refuse to go along. They say they'll agree that players should be available while in training and during tournaments, but that at other times it's an unreasonable intrusion into a player's private life.

Now of course Sepp and Michel can do whatever they want within FIFA. The WADA can no more pull the plug on, say, the World Cup because some of the particpants did not forward their daybook than they can flap their arms and fly. If FIFA has proven anything it's that nobody messes with their quadrennial gold mine.

Oddly though, this kerfuffle - and the WADA doesn't seem to be backing down - coincides with another Blatter initiative, one that may very well threaten not just FIFA's standing with the Urine testers but Blatters control of FIFA: downgrading the Olympic soccer tournament.

You'll recall that last Summer a number of European teams were upset about key players being called in to Olympic teams even though the Olympics is not on the FIFA calendar and so, technically, the teams are not obliged to release their employees.

At the time, Blatter went around saying that the solution to the problem was simple: he'd rewrite the FIFA rules next time around, making Olympic dates "international dates" that teams had no choice but to respect.

The pushback he's gotten on this topic has been considerable, particularly, as one would expect, from UEFA, where the bulk of the players affected are employed. So Blatter has come up with an alternative, one that has some of his supporters within FIFA grumbling that maybe it's time for the old boy to go grow roses and let someone else run the show, and has also ROYALLY ANNOYED THE IOC:

Make the Olympics a U20 tournament, with no so-called "wild cards" allowed.

That way, the IOC can have the WADA chase a bunch of 19 year olds around on vacation, putting Olympic soccer players in compliance, and allows UEFA (and other) clubs to keep the vast majority of the guys they really don't want to release not only in the team but out of the testing program.

Which brings us to Chung Mong-joon, a FIFA VP who seems to be mounting a campaign to replace Blatter with - well, with himself.

Chung says that - are you ready? - this would be a bad idea because it would "hurt the Olympic spirit".

Doing his best Claude Rains, he says he is `` shocked and disappointed that President Blatter mentioned that the Beijing Olympics should be the last event that the under-23 and wild card rules apply...I think the FIFA needs to respect the Olympic spirit and take part in the event passionately.''

Chung of course is a venal crook who nonetheless has a reputation as an honest man; when you buy him he stays bought. But he doesn't come cheap.

Furthermore, this is a topic near and dear to Mr. Chung, who is head of the FIFA Olympic Committee. Of course, Blatter is a member of the IOC, so presumably that trumps Chung on the topic.

But the South Korean is out for bigger fish: he wants Blatter's job and he wants his biggest rival, AFC President and Blatter supporter Mohamed Bin Hammam, out of the picture.

Making this clear, in case anyone missed it, Chung told reporters that, in regard to Bin Hammam, ``I respect his passion for being president of FIFA,'......But the position is to harmonize all the football fans all over the world. In that sense, I think Hammam is not proper to take the position."

Of course all of this is news to Blatter, who has hinted strongly that he will stand for re-election in 2011.

For his part, Chung isn't exactly giving us the William Tecumseh Sherman "If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve" routine. In fact, he's saying "I will not run away if a chance is given to serve for FIFA...But I will not campaign eagerly to become the president like Hammam,''

Chung has just filed a complaint against Bin Hammam with the FIFA ethics committee over the incredibly stupid comments the Qatari made with regard to the President of the Korean Federation, namely that he wanted to "cut his head off"

Leaving aside the fact that, as a Muslim Arab this might be considered a particularly unsuitable thing to say, generally speaking FIFA isn't keen on death threats aimed at fellow Executive board members.

Now of course everyone knows that Chung doesn't really give a fig about whether the Olympics is a U23, a U20 or a U9 tournament. But he also doesn't mind alienating the UEFA countries, where absolutely no one is going to support him anyway, in return for leveraging an issue that moves the Asian and African countries who are always touchy about the Europeans making all the rules to suit themselves.

For the moment it looks a lot like Blatter has painted himself into a corner: unless he can talk the IOC and the WADA into making different rules for team sports - which is his current meme - then he really has no choice but to change the constitution of Olympic football teams.

Which plays right into Chung's hand.

Still, if someone thinks for a second that Our Man Sepp is going to go down easily, he hasn't been paying attention.