Following the news yesterday that Paul Pogba has been banned for 4 years by the Italian National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) for a doping offence- could this signal the end of the players career as we know it?

The France international player was randomly tested in August of last year, with that sample testing positive, finding elevated levels of testosterone in his system. He was provisionally suspended in September 2023 and opted for secondary analysis of the sample. The result was again confirmed as positive by the Italian NADO in October 2023- with the anti-doping body requesting a 4 year suspension. Yesterday the anti-doping tribunal confirmed the 4 year suspension, which backdates to the date of the failed test (20 August 2023).

Pogba has denied that he would have knowingly or deliberately ‘dope’ and indicated yesterday that he would be appealing the decision via the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

So what does that mean? 

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, a 4 year ban is standard for this type of offence. However, it can be reduced on appeal where it can be demonstrated by an athlete that the doping was not intentional or that the positive test was a result of contamination, or if the athlete provides substantial assistance to investigators. It is understood that, throughout the process, Pogba was offered a plea bargain that he refused to accept in the hope that he would get a lighter sentence, claiming that he had ingested the substance accidentally. That strategy appears to have backfired.

If Pogba is unsuccessful in his appeal at the CAS then he will not be eligible to play again until August 2027. By that time, he will be 35 and out of contract- despite that fact that Juventus can (reportedly) terminate his contract anyway as a result of the ban. What Juventus do next remains to be seen, but it is certainly not good news for the player whose recent career has be mired by injury. If Pogba is successful at the CAS then he could see the ban reduced to two years, which may give the player some hope of reigniting his playing career, either in Italy or at international level. 

Why has it gone so wrong for Pogba?

Pogba is reported to have taken food supplements that promote the production of hormones in the body, including testosterone. This case is not an unusual one in terms of anti-doping cases, but what it highlights is that athletes (and their support staff) must take the upmost care when opting to take supplements and use alternative therapies to avoid falling foul of the World Anti-Doping Code and/or governing body anti-doping regulations. What is also key is that athletes have the proper education to know and understand what those Rules and regulations are, so that they can make informed decisions about treatments. 

This case will undoubtedly play out in the public domain and so we will wait to see what happens next to the French international.