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Friday April 12, 2024

‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS

By REUTERS
March 02, 2024
Juventus French midfielder Paul Pogba during a football match against Bologna in Turin on August 27, 2023. —  AFP File
Juventus French midfielder Paul Pogba during a football match against Bologna in Turin on August 27, 2023. —  AFP File

ROME: Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba’s career hung in the balance on Thursday after he was handed a four-year doping ban but the France international said he would try to clear his name by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The France international was provisionally suspended by a tribunal of Italy’s national anti-doping organisation (NADO Italia) in September after testing positive for DHEA - a banned substance which naturally raises levels of testosterone.

Juventus did not comment on the ban but a source confirmed they had been notified about the decision and would assess the next steps. The 30-year-old Pogba, who has a contract at Juve until June 2026, denied any wrongdoing.

“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said in a statement. “As a professional athlete I would never do anything to enhance my performance by using banned substances and have never disrespected or cheated fellow athletes and supporters of any of the teams I have played for, or against. “As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he added, referring to sport’s highest court.

NADO Italia declined to comment on Pogba’s case, citing privacy rules. The doping test was performed after Juve’s 3-0 Serie A season-opening victory at Udinese on Aug. 20.

The tribunal had said it detected the prohibited substance “non-endogenous testosterone metabolites”, adding that the results were “consistent with the exogenous (external) origin of the target compounds”.

Pogba was an unused substitute in that game but made two appearances off the bench against Bologna and Empoli before he was handed a provisional suspension. Pogba’s positive doping test was also confirmed in a counter-analysis on a second sample in October.

The ban could effectively end Pogba’s career at the highest level. The Frenchman was among the sport’s highest-earning players at his peak after he completed a then-world record transfer of over 100 million euros ($108.42 million) in 2016 to Premier League Manchester United.

According to a source, Juve are paying Pogba a minimum wage of 2,000 euros ($2,200) per month. If the ban is upheld by CAS, Pogba’s contract could be terminated and he will not be able to return to action until September, 2027 - when he will be 34.

“When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations,” Pogba added.

Pogba has had a disappointing second spell with Juve due to injuries since he returned to the Turin-based club following his departure from United on a free transfer in 2022. The 2018 World Cup winner barely featured last season due to knee and hamstring injuries as well as knee surgery, which prevented him playing for France at the World Cup in Qatar.