Since allegations of doping came out against Mamadou Sakho in late April, both countries Liverpool and France have suffered from the absence of the talented and charismatic defender. The player also suffered substantial hardship, missing the Europa League final, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to represent his nation on home soil in an international tournament (one in which his presence could have conceivably swayed the razor-thin balance of the final the other way). Footballing matters aside, Sakho's reputation also took a hit through this ordeal, as the label of "cheater" will likely stay with him for a long time despite being cleared of wrongdoing.
Sakho, for his part, has handled the situation as well as he reasonably could. He took the bullet, requesting the provisional suspension while UEFA investigated the matter, to protect his club and country from possible fallout from the investigation.
Now, as more facts come to light, Sakho, lawyers in tow, is considering a lawsuit, which in turn has put WADA on the defensive. According to The Telegraph WADA needs to successfully appeal UEFA's ruling in order to protect themselves from any possible lawsuits. And from the sounds of it, WADA needs to be sued.
Sakho, though unwise to take a fat-burner, was not in the wrong here. Indeed, it appears WADA pushed for a case against Sakho from the very beginning. According to the report:
Telegraph Sport has been told by more than one source that proceedings against Sakho would not even have been opened - and would have been dropped much sooner - but for Wada, which insisted on a case being pursued despite mounting evidence any conviction would be unsafe.
The agency is said to have intervened almost from the very beginning, when Sakho tested positive for a substance called higenamine following the second leg of Liverpool's Europa League tie against Manchester United on March 17.
The compound was included in a fat-burner Sakho had been taking, which had apparently been checked against WADA's prohibited list to ensure it was legal.
The director of the WADA-accredited laboratory in Cologne which tested Sakho's doping sample is said to have determined higenamine not to be a banned substance. But, after double-checking with Wada, he was told the agency deemed it to be something known as a beta2 agonist - a category of compounds which are prohibited - and was instructed to report a failed test.
This back and forth explains the month-long delay between the test taking place and Sakho being informed of the result on April 22, the day before Liverpool's 2-2 Premier League draw against Newcastle United.
If this is all sounding conspiratorial, readers can be forgiven for taking time to grab their tinfoil and fashioning it into a crude hat. But it actually gets worse. The lab in Cologne was one of only two that checked for higenamine. Additionally, the lab director told the UEFA disciplinary committee that he did not consider the compound a doping agent until instructed by WADA to do so.
So, it appears that both sides are lawyering up, with WADA thinking that offense is the best form of defense. It also appears that WADA have a difficult case on their hands, but that doesn't mean they can't make Sakho's life a legal hell between now and whenever the case is ultimately resolved. Unfortunately, that resolution could still be a long way off, and is likely to continue being an off the pitch distraction for the defender.