Doping violations, or athletes getting caught for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, are pretty rare in football. The percentage of footballers getting caught by anti-doping agencies pales in comparison to sports such cycling, weightlifting and athletics. And those who do get caught sometimes slip through the loopholes due to insufficient evidence. However, football like any other high-profile sport, is not free of the problem of doping, and is also prone to recreational drug abuse.
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Of late, the rules are pretty tight. The days where players could party, drink and at times take recreational drugs, while not playing are long gone. However, there are many who jump curfew, and a few, who get caught as well. The latest case is that of Ukraine striker Artem Biesiedin, who was banned by UEFA earlier this week. Biesiedin was banned on May 11 for a failed test. He was provisionally suspended by UEFA in December, and banned for using the stimulant, Fonturacetam, again in February.
Here is a list of five instances of doping/drug abuse scandals in the beautiful game.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola and Diego Maradona are prominent among football stars who have faced the doping heat at some point in their careers.
It is hard to imagine this name cropping up in a doping list. Spanish manager and former player, Pep Guardiola, was slammed with a four-month ban after testing positive for banned steroid Nandrolone during his time in Italy with Brescia in 2001. Many in the footballing fraternity had come forward to defend him at the time.
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On appeal in 2005, Guardiola, who currently manages Manchester City in the Premier League, was handed a seven-month suspended jail sentence by the court in Brescia. He, along with his close friend and former water polo player Manuel Estiarte, continued to fight the verdict long after retirement as a player.
The midfielder was cleared of wrongdoing following an appeal six years later. The case against him was reopened again in 2009, but was ultimately dismissed.
Another famous doping case was of the English Footballer Jake Livermore, who was suspended by his club Hull City and the FA after he tested positive for cocaine in May 2015, a year after his newborn son had died.
However, taking into consideration the special circumstances, the FA decided not to ban him. Livermore had also stated that his positive test for cocaine was the "get out of jail free card" and he needed to start to come to terms with the death of his son.
The case of Diego Maradona attracted a lot of attention in the 1990s. Maradona, currently the coach of Argentine Primera División club Gimnasia de La Plata was notorious for his battle with cocaine addiction for more than two decades. He was banned after testing positive for the drug for 15 months in 1991.
Three years later, in 1994, he was sent home from the World Cup in USA after testing positive for five variants of ephedrine, a stimulant banned by FIFA.
Jose Enrique Angulo
In August 2016, Jose Enrique Angulo signed a five-year contract with La Liga side Granada FC. Just 15 days after signing with the club, he was given a one year suspension by a tribunal of South American confederation CONMEBOL after testing positive for cocaine.
He appealed against the ban but that worked out against him. FIFA and The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decided that Angulo would serve a four-year ban instead of one after the facts submitted by the player did not counter the evidence produced by the scientific experts.
In the wake of his drug ban, the La Liga club cancelled the player’s contract even before he made his debut.
In February 2017, Cristiano Ronaldo, along with a teammate, was accused of disrupting a routine doping test. The entire situation turned unpleasant in the Doping Control station.
This incident provoked a lot of attention and triggered a number of communications between UEFA and Real Madrid. The club continued to defend the players and accused the governing body of being incapable of dealing with top players.
Despite allegations and doubts, there was no action taken against Real Madrid.
In 2019, Ronaldo again raised a red flag when he left the stadium soon after the match, possibly to avoid a dope test. However, there were no implications or allegations made by officials that he was avoiding the test.
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