Bolivar stripped of Bolivian title

LA PAZ - Bolivar have been stripped of the Bolivian Apertura championship title after fielding an ineligible player, an official said Thursday. The Bolivian league's disciplinary committee docked the club three points after ruling that Argentine defender Augusto Mainguyague was not eligible to play in their final game of the competition away to Real Mamore. Bolivar won 2-1 to finish top, one point ahead of Real Potosi, but Real Mamore directors protested and the committee ruled in their favour in a meeting on Wednesday. "The ruling was signed last night," Nicolas Morales, the president of the committee, told reporters. "The result of the hearing was totally favourable to Real Mamore." The tribunal ruled that the Mainguyague's contract had ended one week before the game and had not been renewed. The decision means that Bolivar finished the championship with 37 points, two behind Real Potosi who will take their place in the lucrative South American Libertadores Cup - the continent's equivlent of the Champions League - next year. Real Potosi, from the former silver mining town of the same name, play at 4,000 metres above sea level in one of the world's highest first division grounds. Angry Bolivar president Guido Loayza described the decision as a conspiracy and said he would appeal to the Bolivian Federation (FBF). "The tribunal wants to swipe Bolivar's championship," he said. "The decision is outrageous." Legal disputes are nothing new in Bolivian football. Earlier this month, The Strongest were officially declared winners of the 2004 Clausura championship, nearly five years after the contest ended, by the Bolivian League. The Strongest won the title on the field but several clubs challenged the outcome in a row over the nationality of their goalkeeper Marcelo Robledo. The process has dragged on ever since.