A bombshell revelation rocked the soccer world on Friday when reports emerged that Argentinian midfielder Alejandro “Papu” Gómez tested positive for a banned substance days before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Gómez, part of Argentina’s World Cup-winning squad, reportedly failed a doping test while playing for Spanish club Sevilla in early November 2022. According to Spanish outlet Relevo, Gómez has been handed a two-year ban by anti-doping authorities for ingesting a prohibited substance.
The 35-year-old’s positive test has led some to question whether Argentina could be stripped of its World Cup title since Gómez featured in two matches during the tournament. However, a closer look at FIFA’s anti-doping regulations reveals the South American nation’s trophy is not under any imminent threat.
The Circumstances of Gómez’s Failed Test
Details remain scant about the circumstances surrounding Gómez’s adverse analytical finding. The versatile attacking midfielder claims he took cough syrup prescribed for one of his children after feeling unwell without clearing it with Sevilla’s medical staff.
This syrup allegedly contained Terbutaline, a bronchodilator on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list. Gómez, Sevilla, and the Argentinian Football Association were reportedly made aware of the issue months ago after he was tested, but no official announcement was made until this week.
Gómez was permitted to participate in the World Cup by FIFA while awaiting the results of a B sample analysis. He came off the bench in Argentina’s shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening match and started their 2-1 win over Australia in the Round of 16.
FIFA Rules Clear – Two Positives Needed to Strip Title
While Gómez’s actions were undoubtedly foolish, FIFA’s regulations are unambiguous: Two or more positive tests are required for a national team to face sanctions like being stripped of a title.
Article 11 of the governing body’s Anti-Doping Regulations states:
“If more than two members of a team have committed an anti-doping rule violation during an event period, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee shall impose an appropriate sanction on the team (e.g., loss of points, disqualification from a competition or event, or other sanction) in addition to any consequences imposed upon the individual players committing the anti-doping rule violation.”
Since Gómez is the only Argentinian player to have tested positive for the World Cup, FIFA does not have grounds to invalidate Argentina’s third World Cup triumph under its own rules.
Sevilla cannot be retrospectively disqualified from the 2021-22 Europa League title under UEFA regulations, as two positives are required for team sanctions in club competitions. Gómez played five matches during that successful campaign.
Career Possibly Over for Gómez at 35
While Argentina’s World Cup crown and Sevilla’s Europa League trophy are not in jeopardy, the same cannot be said for Gómez’s playing career.
The two-year ban handed down essentially spells the end for the veteran attacker, who recently signed for Italian club Monza after leaving Sevilla. He will turn 37 by the time any suspension expires.
Gómez could file an appeal to get his ban reduced by arguing he made an honest mistake rather than intentionally doping. However, ignorance is seldom an excuse under WADA’s strict liability approach to anti-doping rule violations.
The former Atalanta star can also apply for a therapeutic use exemption to use prohibited medications for legitimate medical reasons in the future. But this avenue would not erase his current sanction.
In summary, Argentina does not have to worry about being retrospectively stripped of their World Cup title under FIFA regulations despite Alejandro Gómez’s positive doping test last November.
The Albiceleste are firmly in the clear unless another squad member also failed a doping control around the same time, which seems highly improbable.
While Gómez’s international trophy cabinet will remain intact, his careless actions may have unwittingly brought a premature end to his club career. An unfortunate lapse in judgment could rob the soccer world of his talents for the next two years.