FIFA clears Peru captain Guerrero for World Cup 2018

'Coca contamination'

LIMA – Peru captain Paolo Guerrero is free to play in next year’s World Cup after FIFA’s appeal committee cut his ban for failing a doping test from one year to six months on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old, who is Peru’s all-time leading scorer and was their top marksman in World Cup qualifying with six goals, will be eligible to return in May.

“The FIFA appeal committee after taking into account all the circumstances of the case, in particular the degree of fault of the player, considered a six-month period of ineligibility to be a proportionate sanction,” FIFA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ruling came less than two weeks after Guerrero was banned by FIFA’s disciplinary committee until November 2018 after testing positive for cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine.

Guerrero, who plays his club football for Brazil’s Flamengo, tested positive to the stimulant after Peru’s World Cup qualifier against Argentina in Buenos Aires on October 5.

The striker was given a provisional ban on November 4, forcing him out of Peru’s World Cup intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. Peru’s victory over two legs earned the country its first World Cup berth since 1982.

Guerrero denied using cocaine or drinking coca tea, claiming he was a victim of food or drink contamination.

His defense maintain the striker drank tea contaminated with coca leaves before the qualifier with Argentina.

The former Bayern Munich and Hamburg SV forward, who has scored 42 goals for Flamengo since moving to Brazil in 2015, gives the Peru attack a much-needed physical presence and has a galvanising effect on their less experienced players.

Guerrero has been capped 85 times for Peru’s national team and is the country’s all-time leading scorer with 32 goals.

The 2018 World Cup will be played in Russia from June 14 to July 15. Peru have been drawn in Group C alongside France, Australia and Denmark.