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MARADONA’S DRUG SCANDAL OVERSHADOWS FIELD ACTION

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A drug scandal involving Argentine superstar Diego Maradona has hit the World Cup.

Maradona tested positive for using ephedrine, a common nasal decongestant that contains a strong stimulant. Julio Grondona, president of the Argentine Football Association, said Wednesday night "the player is Diego Maradona and the drug is ephedrine" when asked about FIFA's announcement that a player had tested positive after a game."It may be a minor issue. We will discuss it and let you know tomorrow," Grondona said.

Nothing involving Maradona and banned substances is minor, however. Maradona, who was suspended for 18 months for cocaine use in 1991-1992, was at Argentina's practice Wednesday. FIFA will make an announcement on his status on Thursday at 1 p.m. EDT.

FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, said Wednesday an unnamed player tested positive. Guido Tognoni, a FIFA spokesman, would not release the player's name, pending a second test held late Wednesday.

That test was made in Los Angeles in front of Argentine federation officials. The results were not made known.

When tested, a player gives two urine simples, with only the first sample tested. If the test is positive, then the second sample is examined.

Punishment for using a banned substance can vary. A source told The Associated Press that each case is looked at on an individual basis.

FIFA has declined to join a worldwide antidrug accord sponsored by the International Olympic Committee designed to unify doping penalties.

Two players have been banned for positive drug tests at the World Cup: Ernest Jean-Joseph of Haiti in 1974 and Willie Johnston of Scotland in 1978. At the 1972 Olympics, U.S. swimmer Rick DeMont was stripped of a gold medal for using ephedrine.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia - like the United States the previous day - joined the big boys.

The longest shot in the 24-team field when they arrived - at 250-1 far beyond the odds on the United States - the Saudis will be staying a bit longer. They advanced to the second round Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over Belgium that equaled the United States' 2-1 decision over Colombia on the soccer shock scale.

"I told you we would take second place in the group, and here we are, delivering what we promised," said Saudi Arabia's Argentine coach, Jorge Solari. "This was not expected by many people."

Just as most folks didn't think the Americans would advance, which they did by finishing third in their group. For that, they get to meet tournament favorite Brazil on the Fourth of July at Stanford Stadium

"Nobody thinks we will beat Brazil, nobody in the whole world," U.S. defender Alexi Lalas said.

Nobody though the Saudis would play more than three games in this World Cup. They actually came close to winning Group F.

Until the Netherlands scored midway through the second half to beat Morocco 2-1 and win the group, the Saudis were the leaders. Now, the Dutch stay at the Citrus Bowl to play Ireland on July 4, and Saudi Arabia goes to Dallas for a match with Sweden on Sunday.

Belgium, which already had advanced, plays either Germany at Chicago or the winner of Group D at Foxboro, Mass.

Saeed Owairan's superb solo effort five minutes into the game produced the only goal against the Belgians, who rested three starters and paid for it.

Owairan dribbled past Dirk Medved before sidestepping Michel De Wolf. He then turned around Rudi Smidts, moved into the penalty area and whipped a right-footed kick past diving defender Philippe Albert and into the left side of the net.

"This is the best goal I've ever scored in my life," Owairan said. "But this goal means nothing to me. I scored it for every Saudi and every Arab person."

Belgium coach Paul van Himst issued a warning to Sweden and anybody else who might meet up with the Saudis.

"Today we played against a very dangerous side, especially on the counterattack," he said.

The Dutch were rescued by their star, Dennis Bergkamp, who scored in the first half and set up the winner by Bryan Roy in the 78th minute.

With temperatures peaking at 118 degrees at Orlando, Fla., Netherlands sent Morocco home with an 0-3 record.

"Everybody was totally spent by the heat . . . and to score at that stage was simply heavenly," Roy said.

Bergkamp connected in the 43rd minute with his first World Cup goal, a deft chip over goalkeeper Zakaria Alaoui. Hassan Nader tied it two minutes into the second half. Then with 12 minutes left and the Moroccan defense weakening, Bergkamp made a run on the left side. His perfect pass was met by Roy, who shot between two defenders to score.

In other World Cup news:

- Ion Vladoiu of Romania, already banned from three games for a vicious tackle against Switzerland, was thrown out of the World Cup by his team because of his behavior on and off the field. Vladoiu will return to Romania on Friday.