Paolo Guerrero won't be going to the World Cup, but he's not taking his punishment silently.
Guerrero had a ban over taking an illegal substance instituted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, following an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency to extend an initial sixth-month ban from FIFA, which had been shortened from its first length through an appeal by the player. Guerrero, who will be unable to play until January, had tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, after a World Cup qualifier against Argentina last October. Peru's captain and all-time leading scorer, Guerrero has become a lightning rod for Peru supporters, who showed up in masses to welcome him back to Lima after the CAS ruling was handed down.
Guerrero, who argued he must have ingested the substance in contaminated tea, himself gave an impassioned speech on his official Facebook page in response to the ruling, proclaiming his innocence and claiming he's been robbed of a World Cup. Given this summer will be Peru's first World Cup since 1982 and that Guerrero is 34, the achievement of securing a World Cup berth was made all the more valuable–and the disappointment of not being able to go all the more painful.
As part of his remarks, Guerrero said the following (translated by SI's Luis Miguel Echegaray):
"Serving six months because of this injustice, and then having CAS to give me 14 months, for me it’s so hard. They’re very hard hours for me and for my family. I feel that my dream, first of playing soccer, and second, to play in the World Cup after 36 years, I feel like I’ve lost it. I have never taken any drugs or any banned substances.
"Never, that I can guarantee you. I’ve never even wanted to do anything like that.
"What can’t be understood is how they can give me a sanction of 14 months, take away my dream which was play a World Cup, without any justification or argument that made sense to me or even you guys.
"So to the people who contributed in this embarrassing injustice, robbing me from a World Cup, and perhaps even my career, I hope you can sleep in peace."
FIFPro, the world's player's union, released the following statement in response to the CAS ruling:
FIFPro is calling for an urgent meeting with FIFA after football player Paolo Guerrero was suspended for 14 months for accidentally ingesting a banned substance, preventing him from representing Peru at the World Cup. FIFPro considers the ban unfair and disproportionate, and the latest example of a World Anti-Doping Code that too often leads to inappropriate sanctions, especially when it has been established that there was no intent to cheat. Both FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed Guerrero did not knowingly ingest the substance and that there was no performance-enhancing effect. It therefore defies common sense that he should be handed a punishment which is so damaging to his career. The WADA Code has been imposed and updated without proper consultation of footballers and their representatives. In the light of this case and other recent decisions, FIFPro is calling for FIFA and other football stakeholders to immediately review how to change anti-doping rules in football so that they serve the best interests of the game and protect the fundamental rights of players.