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"POLICE are investigating a massive cocaine ring involving a string of major Premier League footballers.

The News of the World can sensationally reveal detectives are on the brink of quizzing one star over DEALING the illegal Class A drug as well as USING it himself.

Among the sports heroes identified in the wide-ranging probe, and believed to be part of the coke network, is a major English CRICKET star who's a household name.

A source close to the police inquiry, which embraces several forces, said:

"We're aware of an active drugs ring within the footballing fraternity.

"We already have some strong information that one Premiership footballer has been taking and distributing cocaine.

"And intelligence received as a result of looking at a football AGENT suspected of dealing to a number of high profile players has led us to other players and sports associates who are of interest.

"Just because people have celebrity status and large wage packets does NOT make them untouchable."

A team of senior officers from several forces has been assigned to the top secret investigation after colleagues stumbled on the network while monitoring the activities of international gangsters. They are now set to close the net after several months' surveillance operations and phone taps.

The Premier League star suspected as a pusher cannot be named for legal reasons.


But during recent transfer negotiations the player told friends that he would only move if he could find a supplier near his new club.

Our inside police source said: "There are many strands to this very complicated investigation. But we're absolutely determined that no one—not the Mr Bigs or the small fry—is going to slip through the net." The world of top-level football has for years been the centre of allegations of drug abuse.

Over the last decade there has been a growing list of players linked to drugs, including big names like Mark Bosnich and England legend Paul Gascoigne.

In 1994 former QPR and Crystal Palace star Mark Dennis alleged that football was riddled with drug-takers and admitted using cocaine throughout his career.

In the same year Arsenal's Paul Merson admitted drink, cocaine and gambling addictions. He escaped punishment as he agreed to rehabilitation and was never caught out in any test.

And just three years ago ex-Chelsea star Adrian Mutu was named, shamed, sacked and banned after testing positive for the deadly drug.

None of these players is in any way linked to current police investigation.

The probe was sparked by info gleaned by officers who targeted a big-league villain linked to notorious drug baron Curtis Warren.

Shaven-headed thug Warren made a fortune, estimated at over £100million, from his crimes and spent almost 11 years in a Dutch jail for trafficking dugs and killing a fellow inmate.

He returned to Britain last June but his freedom lasted just 36 days.

Warren was arrested in Jersey and charged with conspiring to import £300,000 worth of cannabis and is now awaiting trial."

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