Last updated : 20 January 2004 By editor
Rio Ferdinand's long-running missed drugs test saga will not be concluded for at least another month after his legal team presented the Football Association with a 125-page appeal document on Monday evening.Any hope that the case, whose length has already attracted the ire of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, will be concluded swiftly appears well wide of the mark.

Under their own regulations, the FA have 21 days to respond to the appeal.
And, while it had been hoped by all sides a new three-man panel, who also have the power to increase the punishment, could be set up and reviewing the evidence before the end of the month, the Press Association understands that the sheer scale of the document present at Soho Square makes this impossible.In all likelihood, the FA will require the full three weeks just to analyse the counter-claims United have made and with a suitable hearing date then to be agreed between both sides' legal teams and the non-FA aligned QC who will chair the new panel, it could be the end of February before Ferdinand learns his fate.

'The FA has received an appeal from Rio Ferdinand against the decision of an Independent Disciplinary Commission on December 19, 2003, and against the sanction imposed,' said an FA statement. A date for an appeal will be set in due course. As there has been no request to set aside Rio Ferdinand's suspension, it will start tomorrow, January 20, as ordered by the Commission.'