FIFA bans Ivory Coast player for 18 months

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By Associated Press

GENEVA: FIFA banned Ivory Coast goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo for 18 months on Monday in a doping case involving the same substance that Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Gbohouo tested positive for trimetazidine in connection with Ivory Coast’s World Cup qualifying game against Cameroon last November, which it lost 1-0.

The FIFA ruling said the player was prescribed a medication for an eye disorder last year to “improve his retinal blood flow” and it contained trimetazidine dihydrochloride.

Trimetazidine is also a heart medication which lawyers for Valieva said her grandfather was taking and that she accidentally ingested weeks before the Beijing Games in February.

Then aged 15, Valieva was allowed to compete in Beijing pending a full investigation of her positive test by the Russian anti-doping agency, which is ongoing. She placed fourth at the Olympics after a mistake-filled free skate program.

A key element in both the Valieva and Gbohouo investigations is judging the responsibility and blame athletes must accept for a positive test, and the possible role of their team medical staff.

The FIFA disciplinary committee decided Gbohouo had no intention to improve his performance by cheating and should not serve a full four-year ban.

The ruling said Gbohouo “did not intend to dope, but rather wished to treat a visual field disorder by taking a medicine prescribed by an ophthalmologist.”

The FIFA judges also accepted that “in the artificial cocoon of an international footballer’s life,” a player could expect doctors and team officials to help ensure any medication he took was safe.

The ruling also noted that the 33-year-old Gbohouo was an experienced top-level player and “could legitimately be expected to exercise caution” when taking medication.

“As a result and in view of the circumstances of the case outlined above, the committee concluded that the player’s degree of fault was normal rather than significant,” the FIFA document said.

Gbohouo, who played for Ethiopian club Wolkite City when he tested positive, missed the African Cup of Nations in January while provisionally suspended, and could miss the next edition hosted by his home country next year.

FIFA said the ban runs to June 23, 2023 — the opening day of the 2023 African Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.