Saturday 21 July 2018

Comment: Peru captain Paolo Guerrero's potential World Cup ban shows just how stupid Wada's rules are

Paolo Guerrero
Paolo Guerrero

James Corrigan

Lausanne is a long way from Lima, but on Thursday the Swiss city will feature in every Peruvian news bulletin as a nation waits to discover the fate of its footballing saviour.

If the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is successful in its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport then Paolo Guerrero will see his doping ban extended from six months to two years and the Peru captain and record scorer will miss his country's first appearance in the World Cup finals in 36 years.

Reports from the capital suggest local authorities fear riots if Wada prevails. Certainly, an angry sense of injustice would sweep the Land of the Incas and if one would merely scratch the surface of Guerrero’s case, the grievance would be all the more understandable.

The 34-year-old tested positive for benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite of cocaine, after Peru’s draw in Argentina last October. Initially, Fifa hit the former Bayern Munich striker with a one-year sanction, meaning he would be absent from the Russian feature piece.

But, on appeal, this was cut in half after Guerrero’s lawyers convinced the disciplinarians the quantities involved were so small they ruled out cocaine consumption and could probably be put down to drinking tea prepared in a kettle that had previously contained coca leaves. Well, it only seemed fair.

To Wada it did not. It fully recognises there was no intention to enhance performance, but is sticking to its strict liability mantra, which in this and other cases is absurd. So here we are with this South American cause celebre.

Of course, CAS cannot allow emotion to rule the day. It should not matter if Guerrero was the third choice left-back and in danger of being forced out of the summer tour to Guatemala. But, at the very least, the spotlight cast by the extraordinary depth of feeling will direct a beam on to Wada, that pompously righteous agency which, on its trusty white steed, gallops ever further from its original remit.

Remember, it was set up to unearth cheats? On its formation in 1999, nobody mentioned a crusade against recreational drugs and everyone but the pedantic acknowledges that cocaine is not a PED and the same applies to cannabis, ecstasy and heroin. So what are they are doing on the list?

The answer can be traced back to Wada’s desperation to get the US on side. The Americans were in the midst of their war on drugs and wanting to look big and brave demanded anti-doping be tied into it. Wada agreed and, in the meantime, despite bodies such as UK Anti-Doping calling for the rules to be relaxed, it has stood firm.

All very gallant and noble, but sport has been left with a moral mess in which Dan Evans receives a one-year ban for snorting a line that would have done his tennis career no good whatsoever even if it had gone undetected and Maria Sharapova receives only three months longer for taking a “heart” drug known to increase endurance.

Last week, Zak Hardaker was banned for 14 months, but the doping panel concluded it was "fortuitous" the rugby league player had resorted to the cocaine as otherwise he might have died. "There was no performance-related benefit and if he'd had another bottle of spirits instead, he would not be here before us," the Ukad report read. How ridiculous does that sound?

Yes, Hardaker and Evans and all the rest of the party crowd were wrong and yes, the rules are clear. But the rules are also stupid and they should be ripped up immediately. Perhaps Wada could then direct all its power to catching the real culprits.

Online Editors

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