On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport delivered a blow to Peru’s National Team and its fans. The body extended Paolo Guerrero’s six-month FIFA ban – set to expire this month just ahead of the World Cup (the first one the South American country has qualified for since 1982) – until January 2019. Meaning La Blanquiroja will have to face countries like France, Denmark, Australia, and Germany without its star player. In October, Guerrero tested positive for benzoylecgonine – the main metabolite of cocaine. While some were quick to judge him, Paolo has maintained that the positive test result came after drinking coca tea. FIFA, accepting his reasoning, reduced the initial ban from a year to six months. However, the CAS, which believes he “did not attempt to enhance his performance by ingesting the prohibited substance,” has added additional time because of “Mr. Guerrero’s degree of fault.”
“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 (doping violations),” the court said.
In Peru and other parts of the Andes, mate de coca is a way of life. The tea, made from coca leaves, is a centuries-old tradition. In light of the court’s recent decision, people have criticized the decision as a lack of understanding of Peruvian culture and drawn attention to the fact that some Russian athletes were able to compete in the Olympics despite the doping scandal. The drink is not illegal in Peru and though it’s made of coca leaves, is not as intense as cocaine. On top of it being an alternative to coffee, it is also sometimes used to treat altitude sickness, the Los Angeles Times reports. But with CAS failing to acknowledge these things, people are just left with anger that Guerrero won’t play because he imbibed tea. Check out a few responses below: