Mexico federation, Atlas back Rafa Marquez in drug trafficking case

Mexico's football federation and Liga MX club Atlas have issued cautious statements backing embattled star Rafael Marquez but also distancing themselves from his legal issues.

Marquez was among 22 people sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged drug trafficking ties on Wednesday.

The federation said it would support Marquez after he represented El Tri well for two decades, but would respect the legal proceedings.

"We recognize and admire Rafael Marquez's career," its statement said. "He just completed 20 years as an iconic figure of the Mexican national team and he has represented us in a great way in many international events, always showing a distinctive leadership and commitment.

"We are confident that Rafael Marquez will clarify these accusations and we will support him and the suitable authorities in order to accomplish that goal.

"The Mexican Football Federation and the Liga MX are entities that follow in line and absolutely respect all the laws and rules."

Atlas called Marquez an "exemplary" player and wished him well, saying it hopes for "a resolution that allows our captain to rejoin the team," without giving further details.

Marquez did not practice with the club for a second straight day Thursday.

The 38-year-old, a former defender for Barcelona and New York Red Bulls, on Wednesday denied having any drug ties.