On the heels of its magical run into a first World Cup berth in more than three decades, Peru’s national team saw its luck take a turn for the worse on Monday.
Captain Paolo Guerrero has been ruled out of the 2018 World Cup that begins next month after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decided to extend Guerrero’s doping ban from six months to 14 months.
A statement from the arbitration court said that Guerrero “bears some fault” for drinking what he claimed was a cup of tea that unknowingly contained cocaine.
“The Cas panel confirmed the existence of an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) committed by Mr. Guerrero but also accepted that he did not attempt to enhance his performance by ingesting the prohibited substance,” the Monday statement read. “However, the panel considered that the player did bear some fault or negligence, even if it was not significant, and that he could have taken some measures to prevent him from committing the ADRV.”
On May 3, Guerrero testified in front of the CAS in Switzerland to appeal the original ban stemming from a positive cocaine test following a match last October. Though the initial ban was just six months and would have already expired by now, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had requested an extension of up to two years.
The 34-year-old forward left a social media message for his followers before that hearing saying he was confident the decision would be in his favor.
“The fears that we don’t confront become our limits,” he wrote on his Facebook. “Throughout my life, persistence has taught me to overcome difficult obstacles. I’m keeping my head held high and looking forward to return where I’m happiest.”
Guerrero’s legal team has said that the cocaine detected in his body during a routine drug test months ago came from accidentally drinking it in a compromised cup of tea.
“I’m happy with what I said,” Guerrero said upon exiting the May 3rd hearing. “I told them everything that I needed to and now it’s time to wait. I’m optimistic, also grateful to the fans there in Peru and those that have come here as well.”
Guerrero, who is Peru’s all-time leading goal scorer, hosted the Peru Football Federation earlier Monday in Brazil where he plays club football for Flamengo. Federation representatives were there to measure his shirt size and take photos ahead of the World Cup, signaling that the federation was completely blindsided by the suspension being extended.
Peru has already played four games without its captain due to the suspension and has managed a 3-1-0 record in that time span. It’s a cruel twist of fate, however, for the man who has meant so much for Peruvian football to not be able to play in the country’s first World Cup appearance in 36 years.
Though Guerrero’s positive drug test came on Oct. 5 in Argentina, he was able to play on Oct. 10 in a World Cup Qualifier in Colombia because the results had not come back yet. In what could be Guerrero’s last game ever for Peru, he scored in the 76th minute of a brilliant free-kick that gave Peru the 1-1 tie with Los Cafeteros and sealed Peru’s ticket into the playoff round against New Zealand for the World Cup berth.