Last updated : 18 January 2004 By Editor

A statement from the club:

"Rio Ferdinand has decided to begin his suspension from January 20 following the findings of the FA's disciplinary commission last month.

"The decision follows discussions between the club, the players and his lawyers. Whilst Rio Ferdinand accepts that he missed an unannounced drugs test and publicly apologises for that, he continues to maintain that he did not miss the test deliberately and that he did not have any reason to avoid it.

"He therefore intends to appeal against the findings and sanctions imposed by the FA's disciplinary commission last month. Accordingly the 30-page notice of appeal is being finalised and will be lodged with the FA on Monday.

"The club respects his deci sion and will continue to support his appeal. Both Manchester United and Rio Ferdinand reiterate their strong condemnation of the use of drugs in any sport."

And a statement from the man himself:

"I would like to apologise for my oversight in missing my drugs test. I have previously made it clear that I condemn the use of drugs in any circumstances but especially in sport and I intend to continue helping to spread this message during and after any period of suspension that I have to serve.

"I do feel strongly that I have given an honest account of the circumstances that led to my mistake and I believe that the verdict and the ban are wrong.

"I want to get back playing for Manchester United and England as soon as possible and if starting the suspension now will help, then I'm prepared to suffer it."

Gordon Taylor as well:

"The case has been sullied by the attention it has got," he said. "The whole thing has been blown out of all proportion. The eyes of the world are on the FA and it has not been possible to look at the case in an objective manner that is why the penalty was so high in the first place.

"I would sincerely hope the appeals panel would be more objective and the suspension will be reduced, but in this situation who can tell?"