‘Prove my innocence’ – Ferdinand reveals how his cornrows were related to 2003 drug ban

Date published: Thursday 22nd September 2022 12:24 - Jason Soutar

Rio Ferdinand in 2004

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has provided some surprising insight into what inspired his iconic cornrows.

Ferdinand sported some pretty famous hairstyles over the course of his career, but his cornrows during his early years at Old Trafford is probably the cut he is best known for.

The former centre-half had a terrific playing career and is widely regarded as one of the best in his position in Premier League history.

However, Ferdinand was banned from playing for eight months from January 2004 after he missed a drug test.

An independent tribunal found him guilty of misconduct after he failed to take a test in September 2003, despite being selected to give a sample to UK Sport doping officials at the United’s training ground.

He missed Euro 2004 with England as a result of the ban.

Ferdinand recently revealed that he grew his hair to prove his innocence.

Speaking to the YouTube channel Stripped with Specs and Vuj, Ferdinand said he got cornrows so he could take a hair follicle test “a year or 18 months on” from when he was due to appear for a drugs test.

“The drug test was the influence,” Ferdinand said. “I got banned for missing the drug test.

“To prove my innocence and that I had not taken any illegal substances, I had to get my hair to two inches or something like that, to a certain length.

“This was so as to take a hair follicle test that could go a year or 18 months to test if you had any type of madness in your system.

“That’s why I grew my hair, to prove my innocence.”

Ferdinand enjoyed an illustrious career at Old Trafford, making 455 appearances for United.

He won six Premier League titles, a Champions League and three League Cups.

The 43-year-old’s first appearance for England following the end of his ban came against Wales in a World Cup qualifier at Old Trafford in October 2004.

He played the full 90 minutes next to Sol Campbell, who was at arch-rivals Arsenal at the time.

It is surprising that England never won anything in the 2000s, with so many world-class players in their prime.

Speaking in 2018, Ferdinand said a lot of the Three Lions’ failings came down to the bitter rivalries teammates had at club level.

“It overshadowed things. It killed that England team, that generation,” Ferdinand told The Sun.

“One year we would have been fighting Liverpool to win the league, another year it would be Chelsea.

“I considered the Premier League to be my title. So I was never going to walk into the England dressing room or the canteen and open up to Frank [Lampard], to Ashley Cole, John, Joe Cole at Chelsea, or Steven [Gerrard] and Jamie Carragher at Liverpool.

“I wouldn’t open up because of the fear that they would then take something back to their club and use it against us, to make them better than us.

“I didn’t want to engage with them in that sense.”

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