(adds details, background)
By Brian Homewood
RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Former Brazil striker Romario was banned for 120 days on Tuesday for a failed dope test which he blamed on a hair-loss treatment.
Brazilian football’s disciplinary tribunal suspended the 1994 World Cup winner after the 41-year-old tested positive for the banned masking agent finasteride following a match for Vasco da Gama against Palmeiras in October.
Romario, who has played sporadically since scoring what he claimed to be his 1,000th goal in May, broke the news himself earlier this month in a news conference. He blamed a hair-loss product which he had been taking for some time.
Two days after making the announcement, Romario was named as Vasco’s player-coach. He had intended to keep playing for the first few weeks of the 2008 season.
Romario was not present at the hearing where he was represented by Vasco’s lawyers. Vasco doctor Rafael Blum told the tribunal he was unaware that Romario had been using the medication.
Finasteride was added to the list of banned substances in 2005 and has already claimed several victims.
German second division soccer player Nemanja Vucicevic of TSV Munich 1860 was banned for six months and Argentine tennis player Mariano Hood for one year after positive tests in 2005.
U.S. skeleton gold medal hope Zach Lund was kicked out of the 2006 Winter Olympics and given a one-year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after testing positive at a World Cup event the previous year.
Former Australia international soccer player Stan Lazaridis last month completed a one-year ban.
Romario has kept his career going over the last few years, defying those who said he should hang up his boots.
Three years ago, he was sacked by Fluminense after being jeered off the field by the crowd during the match at the Maracana.
But Vasco, the club where he began his career, took him back and in 2005, in a remarkable turnaround, he scored 22 goals in the Brazilian championship to finish as the competition’s top scorer at the age of 39.
In between, he took time out to play in the Beach Soccer World Cup and last year went on a four-month excursion to the United States to play for Miami FC, where he added 27 goals to his tally.
He also played four matches for Adelaide United in Australia.
In May, he scored what he claimed to be his 1,000th goal by converting a penalty in the 3-1 win over Sport Recife.
But he admitted the total includes more than 200 goals scored in youth team, reserve, friendly and testimonial games.
Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Trevor Huggins and Pritha Sarkar