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Paolo Guerrero: The Peruvian Warriors Redemption Song

The World Cup begins this month, with the eyes of the world turning to Russia, the controversial hosts. Thirty-two nations’ teams will descend on the host nation. The build up to the World Cup is always fraught with controversy and excitement but this year none have provoked as much indignation – as the ban on Peru’s Paolo Guerrero.

Peru’s football team will participate in the FIFA World Cup in Russia later this month. It is their first time playing the world-famous tournament since 1982. Their participation is even more significant as their captain and top goal scorer Paolo Guerrero’s involvement was up until very recently, banned.

It was a free kick, that Guerrero was lucky enough to score from, that resulted in Peru’s qualification to the tournament, but in December last year Guerrero was banned by FIFA for a year – making his involvement in the World Cup an impossibility. Guerrero was accused of breaking FIFA’s anti-doping rules when he tested positive in a by-product of cocaine – benzoylecgonine – an alkaloid present in the Andean coca plant.

Guerrero, who plays for Flamengo football club, in Rio de Janeiro, argued that he had simply consumed tea which included coca leaves. This tea is very commonly consumed in Peru, where he is from. He argues that he didn’t deliberately ingest cocaine and certainly didn’t intend to use it to enhance his footballing performance. Astonishingly, Peru’s rival teams in the World Cup have protested his ban was overly harsh and begged for his ban to be suspended to allow him to participate and give his country a fair chance in the tournament. The letter from the Australian, Danish and French captains suggests:

“an urgent request for clemency by asking the FIFA Council to temporarily interrupt the ban imposed on Paolo Guerrero during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, with the suspension to recommence at the conclusion of Peru’s participation in the competition…. We strongly believe a temporary interruption would be an equitable and rightful solution.”

Guerrero, whose name translates as ‘warrior’, has also been widely supported in his home country; where a very emotional display of horror at the decision by FIFA, has resulted in the president using his government and media’s resources to focus on overturning the ban. This isn’t a big surprise considering that Peru’s government was so thrilled at their qualification to the tournament that they declared a public holiday in celebration.

Paolo has reacted to the stay of execution with relief and gratitude but is determined to fight the sanction which he feels was unjust, in the first place. He has thanked his teammates, fellow footballers and countrymen for their support and is determined to help his country conquer at the World Cup. He declared:

“I pledge to give the greatest of my efforts to give new and greater joy to my country. There are no limits. There are no more impossible dreams, because it is shown that when Peruvians join us, everything is possible.”

With news of Paolo Guerrero’s reprieve, and news this year that the World Anti-Doping Agency have authorized the usage of CBD products (With strict guidelines) will we begin to see a more understanding and progressive anti-doping agency in the future.

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