Mexico captain Rafa Marquez denied the alleged drug connections that led to sanctions from the U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Marquez, 38, attempted to clear his name with a statement. The former Barcelona star denied all ties to the organization allegedly headed by Raul Flores Hernandez.
“Today several news outlets reported that I am part of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Treasury Department for alleged ties to [a] criminal organization. I categorically deny any type of relation with this organization and with what has been stated in several news reports. I understand the legal situation that I find myself in, and I will immediately work on clearing up the facts alongside my team of attorneys,” Marquez said, according to ESPN.
“I reiterate that I have never participated in any of these organizations that have been mentioned in these reports, and want to reiterate my duty to assist the various authorities and corresponding governments in a punctual manner and maintain the media informed. I also want to ask for respect for my family and towards my situation, because it is not a normal situation -- it is a difficult situation, and I ask for as much respect as possible. I also thank those who have sent me messages of support; I know that many people are with me and I will not disappoint them.
“Just as I have approached my professional career, today is my most difficult challenge. I will try to clear this up when I can and be the Rafa Marquez everyone knows.”
The sanctions are the result of a multi-year investigation that included 43 entities in Mexico, including a soccer team and casino. It is the single largest such designation of a drug trafficking organization ever by its Office of Foreign Assets Control, according to the treasury’s statement. The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets of the people and entities named and forbid U.S. citizens from doing business with them.
Marquez is a former Barcelona, Monaco and New York Red Bulls defender who currently plays for the Mexican soccer club Atlas in Guadalajara in addition to captaining the Mexican national team.
The U.S. government referred to Marquez and 34-year-old norteno singer Julio Cesar Alvarez, better known as Julion Alvarez, as people with longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez who ''have acted as front persons for him and his (drug trafficking organization) and held assets on their behalf.''
The Associated Press contributed to this story.