For many, news that Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho and the club had agreed he wouldn’t be selected to play following a failed drug test and news of a UEFA investigation was met with raised eyebrows. In large part because of what it was claimed Sakho had taken to run afoul of UEFA’s doping regulations.
Namely, that he had taken a "fat burner" that, unbeknownst to the player, had contained a banned substance. This raised eyebrows because the kinds of fat burners that a person might take for therapeutic purposes rather than to try to gain an athletic edge are widely derided as being ineffective and are hardly likely to be needed by a professional athlete.
Meanwhile, there is a history of athletes using the term fat burner as a euphemism of sorts for supplements they should well know will put them on the wrong side of doping regulations. The takeaway for many, then, was that Sakho was either taking something he should have known wouldn’t work or taking something he should have known he shouldn’t be.
"There seems to be a lot more of this that goes on in other sports," was ex-Liverpool defender and Sky pundit Jamie Carragher’s take, with it clear the former Red thinks Sakho was taking something he should have known was off limits. "It’s nothing something we expect in football. But in terms of his situation, it’s a nightmare for the player.
"There are certainly questions to be asked, because he’s let himself down badly. He’s had a great campaign. He’s one of the leaders of the team. You think of the Dortmund game, the United games especially, how well he played in those. It’s how Liverpool fill that void now. But for a professional footballer—or any sportsman—it’s not acceptable."
It might not be the worst idea if Liverpool, not to mention the club’s fans and ex-players, could wait until more of the facts are in before attempting to completely disassociate themselves with Sakho. We are, after all, talking about a group that were collectively, by and large, quite happy to give ex-Red Luis Suarez as many chances as he could bite off.
There are also questions that may need to be asked about the club's role in education and oversight when it comes to its players and doping regulations, regardless of the specifics of how Sakho ran afoul of them. It's easy to say the player should have known better, but if he didn't, then the club must shoulder some of the blame for that.
Still, as things stand now, we do seem to be faced with two likely possibilities. Neither is especially palatable, and barring an unlikely reversal from UEFA when they test the B sample, either one puts both player and club in a bad situation at an important stage in the season. It’s worrying, then. But it’s also too early to say a great deal more than that.