Mexico soccer officials fear that the fractured state of regional governing body CONCACAF could dramatically hinder its Gold Cup chances after five players tested positive for a banned substance and were suspended.
Guillermo Ochoa, Francisco Rodriguez, Edgar Duenas, Christian Bermudez and Antonio Naelson all submitted positive for banned anabolic agent clenbuterol in tests conducted last month and were absent for Thursday’s 5-0 victory against Cuba in Charlotte, N.C.
CONCACAF will convene for a special meeting Friday to examine the situation and decide whether the banned players can be replaced or whether Mexico must continue the tournament with a drastically depleted squad. Ochoa is El Tri’s first-choice goalkeeper, while Rodriguez is an experienced and crucial part of the defensive line. The other three players were not expected to play much in the tournament.
The concern among Mexico’s soccer administration is that with CONCACAF, the body that oversees soccer in Central America, North America and the Caribbean, in political crisis, the decision-making process will be unpredictable and not necessarily in its favor.
“Who knows what is happening with CONCACAF?” a senior Mexican FA official told Yahoo! Sports in a telephone conversation on Thursday night. “There is a lot of doubt with everything so we hope this will not be bad news for us. Is it worrying that we do not have any certainty? Of course it is. How could it not be?”
CONCACAF became heavily embroiled in the recent FIFA bribery scandal, with federation president Jack Warner suspended pending an investigation into corruption following accusations from General Secretary Chuck Blazer. The organization’s structure is still in a state of limbo that may take months to sort out.
The official line from the Mexican camp was that the positive tests were a result of tainted meat, the identical claim to that of Spanish Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.
“What is presumed is that one had to ingest contaminated materials – meat or chicken,” said Decio De Maria, Mexico's federation president. “Now comes the tough part, taking the players off the squad and opening an investigation. Meanwhile, it is a disagreeable moment to take this kind of decision, but we have to take responsibility. Everything points to it being an accident, very unfortunate.”
Mexico was too good for Cuba on Thursday night with Giovanni Dos Santos and Javier Hernandez both scoring twice and Aldo De Negris once. However, the real tests lie ahead with a potential showdown against host United States later in the tournament.