Mamadou Sakho’s suspension for a doping violation came as a shock to Liverpool fans and led to a swift condemnation of the centre half by many in the media. Even amongst those who didn’t rush to discard the French centre half before all the facts were in couldn’t ignore that things didn’t look promising.
He had been accused of taking a fat burner, something that most agreed would have to be either be a legal but ineffective diet pill or a euphemism for something worse. Something the player should have known he wasn’t allowed to take. It was hard to see a way to a positive outcome for the player, and in the meantime Liverpool suffered for his absence.
Then, last month, UEFA took the unusual step of withdrawing his suspension and declaring Sakho eligible to be selected for club and country. That they would be undergoing an investigation into whether the substance, which it turned out wasn’t actually on their banned list, should have been. No matter the outcome of that investigation, Sakho appeared in the clear.
It was too late for him to be selected for the French squad for the upcoming Euros, with Didier Deschamps saying to send a player home to make room for Sakho now that he was available would have been an insulted to the players he selected. It was also too late for Liverpool, with the season over. But it seemed Sakho’s future was cleared up.
Now, there’s another twist. According to UEFA’s chief medical officer and the man who oversees the football governing body’s doping regulations has made the claim that Sakho was only suspended because the player requested it pending an outcome of the investigation in an effort to insulate France and Liverpool from any further fallout.
"Some substances result in an automatic suspensions but others do not," Marc Vouillamoz told L’Equippe this week. "In this case, it was the player who asked that he be suspended temporarily and of his own will, and UEFA agreed to his request. To my knowledge, the disciplinary committee will now rule fairly quickly on his case."
Whatever UEFA’s final ruling on the substance Sakho took, given the player has been able to show that it wasn’t on their banned list at the time of his taking it and that he operated in good faith and with the understanding that he was not violating doping laws, reinstating and extending his ban is not considered to be amongst the likely outcomes.