How long Paul Pogba could be banned for after failed drugs test

In 1998, Roma’s outspoken manager Zdenek Zeman name-checked Juventus when he warned that it was time Italian football “left the chemist’s shop”.

Zeman was subjected to a deluge of libel cases but one of Juve’s doctors, Riccardo Agricola, was found guilty of administering performance-enhancing drugs in 2004. Almost two decades later, the Old Lady is at the centre of another doping controversy after the allegations made against Paul Pogba.

The 2018 World Cup winner has been provisionally suspended by Italy’s national anti-doping tribunal and faces severe punishment if he is found guilty of deliberately using testosterone to enhance his performance.

Here’s everything you need to know about the latest controversy encircling Pogba.

  • What has Paul Pogba been accused of?

Pogba began the debut season of his second spell in Turin in the treatment room with the first of many injury struggles. The former Manchester United midfielder was fit enough to make the squad for Juve’s Serie A opener against Udinese on 20 August but didn’t get off the bench.

Nevertheless, Pogba was randomly selected for an anti-doping test after the contest. According to FIFA’s own definition: “Doping is when players take prohibited substances or use prohibited methods to improve their performance.”

Once the results of his August test had been processed, the Italian Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO Italia) revealed on 11 September that Pogba had violated articles 2.1 and 2.2 of the Anti-Doping code. NADO Italia had found the prohibited substance “non-endogenous testosterone metabolites” – i.e. testosterone that was not produced by the body – in Pogba.

Among many other roles, testosterone can aid muscle size, strength and endurance.

  • How long could Paul Pogba be banned for after positive testosterone test?

NADO Italia’s first act was to immediately hand Pogba a “precautionary suspension” with no time period attached to it.

However, the maximum punishment Pogba could face would be a four-year ban. At 30 years of age, Pogba has already been plagued by injury over recent years and even considered retiring after the controversy surrounding his brother’s alleged blackmail attempts.

The four-year ban can only be implemented in two scenarios, as outlined in FIFA’s statutes. Firstly, if the player took a prohibited substance and cannot prove that they did so by accident. Or, the player took what is classified as a “specified substance” – something that is banned but may have a credible, non-doping explanation – and FIFA can prove that they did so intentionally.

Pogba’s agent Rafaela Pimenta was quick to release a statement which stressed the lack of intent from her client. “The certain thing is that Paul Pogba never wanted to break the rules,” it read.

If neither of those scenarios are fulfilled – for instance, the player can prove that they accidentally took a prohibited substance – Pogba would be banned for two years.

However, if Pogba can establish that he ingested the banned substance outside of competition – the positive test did occur on the first weekend of the new campaign – and it was unrelated to sport performance, he would only be banned for three months. This punishment could even be reduced to four weeks if he completes one of FIFA’s ‘Substance of Abuse’ treatment programmes – like taking a speed awareness course to avoid points on a driving licence.

  • What happens next to Paul Pogba after positive testosterone test?

NADO Italia now have to cross-analyse Pogba’s positive test with a ‘B’ sample to confirm that any banned substances were indeed present in the player’s system on 20 August. If the cross-examination backs up NADO Italia’s initial findings, Pogba will be subjected to a trial to determine the nature of his violation and the requisite punishment.

Juventus released a statement on 11 September revealing Pogba’s suspension and signed off with the neutral line: “The club reserves the right to consider the next procedural steps.”

A positive doping test is grounds to suspend a player’s salary in Italy but it remains to be seen if Juventus will take the opportunity to save themselves the best part of £170,000-per-week.

In March, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri admitted that the club’s best-paid player had “collapsed a bit emotionally”. “He has to put his soul in peace,” the coach explained.

Any healing that may have taken place over the summer has been obliterated by the latest lamentable chapter in Pogba’s career endgame.