Punishment for cocaine use while playing sport does not fit the crimeWarrior by name, warrior by nature but three weeks before the World Cup Peru’s all-time top scorer, Paolo Guerrero, is facing a battle he not only cannot win but arguably should not be fighting at all.
Until last week the 34-year-old thought he was off to Russia for his career swansong. Instead he is off to Switzerland to beg the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, for a reprieve after the court of arbitration for sport extended his ban for testing positive for cocaine from six to 14 months.
Sadly for Guerrero the meeting is the footballing equivalent of attempting a 50-yard scissor-kick after the ball has been deflated. No matter how audacious the effort the shot is unlikely to fly into the top corner – even though Cas accepts that Guerrero, who says he accidentally ingested cocaine in a tea, did not intend to enhance his performance.Guererro’s case does at least shine a spotlight on the rules that govern sports people taking cocaine. No one disputes it is a horrible drug that should be on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list, given it wrecks people’s health and communities, or that a form of punishment should exist for those who take it. But the current rules have many in anti-doping circles shaking their heads. For a start, taking cocaine out of competition is not considered worthy of a ban by Wada. A footballer testing positive on a summer holiday, for instance, is likely to walk away with a get-out-of-jail-free card. Yet that same player testing positive after a match will face a ban of between 12 months and four years – as well as the eternal shame of being a branded a drug cheat. In my mind such people are not drug cheats – a term that should be saved for those who use banned substances to cheat. Rather they are drug takers.
There is, moreover, a second important point here: cocaine’s performance-enhancing qualities are questionable at best. One senior anti-doping figure told me: “The
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