Cascarino says he was given drugs at Marseille

TONY Cascarino, the former Celtic and Republic of Ireland striker, claims he regularly received injections of unknown drugs to enhance his performances with Olympique Marseille in the 1990s.

Cascarino said it was normal practice for most of the Marseille players to be given an injection by the club doctor before all their home games.

"To this day I don’t have a clue what it was, the doctor would only tell me that it would give me an adrenaline boost and I never felt inclined to ask the rest," Cascarino said in his column in the Times.

"Whatever the substance was, my performances improved. I cling to the sliver of hope that it was legal, though I’m 99 per cent sure it wasn’t."

Cascarino said that the injection was given with a "staple gun laden with 20 needles" and that, as a newcomer to the team, he would have felt uncomfortable declining. He also said that chairman Bernard Tapie "made it clear my place in the team depended on me partaking." He said the jabs, given shortly before kick-off, made him feel sharper and more energetic."

Cascarino, who scored 61 league goals in two seasons with Marseille from 1994, said he asked the club masseur if the injections were legal and was told they were "okay".

The striker said that the jabs were given only before home games but added that he did not take them before European ties over worries about UEFA’s stricter testing programme. Once he had signed a new contract and his position was safe, he refused the injections.

Jacques Bailly, Marseille’s physical therapist at the time, said yesterday that Cascarino’s allegations seemed "completely far-fetched. Players took vitamins in liquid form two or three times a year, but never injections for doping."

Former European Footballer of the Year Hristo Stoichkov, 37, announced yesterday that he had decided to retire as a player and that he now planned to help his old club, Barcelona.