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Rival captains back Guerrero in bid to lift World Cup ban

Posted: 2:47 PM, May 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-22 18:47:42Z

Captains of the three countries set to play Peru at the World Cup have co-signed a letter urging FIFA to find a way for team captain Paolo Guerrero — currently banned for a doping offense — to play at next month's tournament.

FIFPro, the global group of players' unions, released a letter Tuesday signed by France's Hugo Lloris, Denmark's Simon Kjaer and Australia's Mile Jedinak seeking a temporary lifting of Guerrero's suspension.

Hours later, Guerrero met in Zurich with FIFA President Gianni Infantino — though it was unclear what soccer's governing body can do to change a ban which was imposed last week by sport's highest court, and could be reviewed by Switzerland's supreme court.

"Gianni Infantino expressed his deep understanding of Guerrero's disappointment," FIFA said in a statement. "However, the FIFA President also stressed the fact that the sanction had been imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, after an appeal lodged against a decision of an independent FIFA judicial body."

Guerrero tested positive for a banned stimulant after Peru's World Cup qualifier against Argentina in October and was initially suspended by FIFA for 12 months.

The ban was reduced to six months by FIFA's appeal committee in December, allowing the 34-year-old forward to play again this month for Brazilian club Flamengo and prepare for the World Cup.

But the Swiss-based CAS, on appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency, last week extended the suspension to 14 months, effectively sidelining Guerrero for Peru's first World Cup tournament in 36 years.

FIFA's statutes recognize CAS has a higher authority to review soccer's own judicial decisions.

In the letter to FIFA, the France, Denmark and Australia captains asked the FIFA Council to "show compassion" and said it would be "plainly wrong" to exclude Guerrero on the basis of the findings that the Peru captain did not intend to cheat and that the substance was not performance-enhancing.

Guerrero tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, but lawyers argued the stimulant did not enhance his performance and was accidentally consumed in contaminated tea.

CAS said its panel accepted those arguments as factual.

"As such, we turn to the FIFA Council and kindly put forward 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," the captains wrote.

"We believe that in the interest of fairness and proportionality, and taking into consideration the exceptional circumstances of the present matter, Paolo who — as everyone agrees did not cheat — should be able to participate with, and against, his fellow professionals in the FIFA World Cup."

Peru President Martin Vizcarra has asked the government and Peru's ambassador to Switzerland to be ready to help Guerrero challenge his ban at the Swiss supreme court.

Guerrero can ask federal judges to study the ruling by CAS, which banned him until January. The Swiss Federal Tribunal can intervene if legal process was abused.

Guerrero's best hope could be an urgent interim order from a federal judge pending a full hearing at a later date. That could freeze the ban before Peru's World Cup program starts on June 16 against Denmark.