Paul Pogba ‘shocked and heartbroken’ as he vows to fight four-year doping ban

Paul Pogba looks on prior to the Serie A match between Juventus and Monza

A “shocked and heartbroken” Paul Pogba said his career had been left in ruins after being handed a four-year ban for failing a drugs test.

Pogba, one of the biggest names in world football and formerly its most expensive player, vowed to appeal the sanction after denying he had ever knowingly “cheated” by taking a banned substance.

The 30-year-old said in a statement: “I have today been informed of the Tribunale Nazionale Antidoping’s decision and believe that the verdict is incorrect. I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me.

“When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations. As a professional athlete I would never do anything to enhance my performance by using banned substances and have never disrespected or cheated fellow athletes and supporters of any of the teams I have played for, or against.

“As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

‘Paul never wanted to break the rules’

Pogba tested positive for a banned substance – reportedly testosterone – on Aug 20, the day his Juventus side beat Udinese in their opening Serie A fixture of the season.

The 30-year-old was handed a “precautionary suspension” on Sept 11, with his club saying at the time: “Juventus Football Club announces that today, Sept 11, 2023, the footballer Paul Labile Pogba received a precautionary suspension order from the National Anti-Doping Tribunal following the results of tests carried out on Aug 20, 2023.

“The club reserves the right to consider the next procedural steps.”

The following day, Rafaela Pimenta, his representative, issued a statement saying her client “never wanted to break the rules”.

“We are waiting for the counter-analysis and until then we can’t say anything. The certain thing is that Paul Pogba never wanted to break the rules,” the statement said.

That counter-analysis confirmed the positive test, leaving Pogba facing a two-year ban unless he showed the result was unreliable or that he bore no responsibility for it, and a four-year ban if found to have doped intentionally.

Massimiliano Allegri, the Juventus coach, said he was not aware of the result of the test after news of it emerged in October.

“I didn’t know, I found out now. Let’s wait... Humanly, I feel sorry for Paul,” Allegri told a press conference ahead of his side’s home game against Torino.

Pogba, who hired renowned anti-doping lawyer Mike Morgan to help him clear his name, argued any ingestion of a banned substance had been unintentional and refused to enter into a plea deal that would cut his sanction.

France’s 2018 World Cup-winning midfielder had been an unused substitute in the game at the centre of his failed test but came off the bench the following week in his club’s 1-1 draw at home to Bologna and in their subsequent 2-0 win at Empoli.

News of the failed test came on the same day as the emergence of an interview with Pogba in which he said he considered retiring from football over alleged extortion and threats from an organised gang, including his older brother Mathias.

Paul Pogba and his brothers Florentin and Mathias
The actions of Pogba's older brother Mathias (right) tore the family apart - WireImage/Venturelli

Indeed, the doping saga was the latest in a litany of setbacks for a player for whom United paid a world-record £89.3 million to re-sign from Juventus in 2016.

He left Old Trafford on a free transfer for the second time in the summer of 2022 but injuries severely limited his appearances and led to him missing France’s World Cup defence.

But it was the alleged blackmail plot that had the biggest impact upon him before September’s news, Pogba having filed a complaint with Turin prosecutors in July 2022 claiming he was the target of a €13 million (£11.1m) scheme.

That saw his brother detained three months later but the latter denied all the allegations against him and was released that December under judicial review.

Speaking to Al Jazeera about the impact the incident had on him, Pogba said: “When there is money you have to be careful. Money changes people. It can break up a family. It can create a war.

“Sometimes I was just by myself thinking, ‘I don’t want to have money anymore. I just don’t want to play anymore. I just want to be with normal people, so they will love me for me – not for the fame, not for the money’.

“Sometimes it’s tough. This life, you have to go through it. It will only make me stronger.”

A number of drugs and medications contain testosterone, a hormone that can provide increased muscle size and strength, including faster recovery from physical exertion.

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