WHEN Peru secured qualification for the World Cup late last year, their government declared a national holiday such was their delight at making it to Russia this summer.

The team was led through the qualifying campaign by star striker, Paolo Guerrero, who is the country’s all-time leading goal scorer and who made seventeen appearances and scored five goals throughout the qualifying campaign, helping ensure they would be at a World Cup finals for the first time since 1982.

But over the past week, Guerrero has been embroiled in a doping scandal which threatens to dash the striker’s dreams of playing in a World Cup.

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The next derby at Celtic Park will likely see those dressed in blue squeezed into the restricted view area of the stadium.

Last October, following a World Cup qualifier against Argentina, Guerrero tested positive for cocaine. He says he ingested the substance in tea and after initially being suspended from competition for twelve months by FIFA’s disciplinary committee, on appeal this was cut to six months which would have ensured he was eligible to play in the World Cup finals next month.

However, last week, Guerrero learned that his suspension had been increased to fourteen months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport meaning the 34-year-old’s dreams of competing in his first, and probably only, World Cup have been shattered.

There has been wide-spread support for Guerrero and the world player’s union, FIFPro, have also expressed their support for the player and have requested his ban be lifted. But a last-ditch meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino earlier this week bore little fruit, with the player failing to have his 14-month suspension reduced at all.

While Guerrero’s case is something of a personal travesty for the player, it also brings up the wider case of the consistency, or chronic lack of consistency, within anti-doping in sport.

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Cocaine, or the metabolite of it that shows up in an anti-doping test, carries with it a suspension of anything between 12 months and four years, as does anabolic steroids and EPO. And while the latter two are almost always treated with a greater seriousness than is cocaine use, questions have to be asked about all three of these drugs being included in the same category.

Unlike EPO and steroids, there are serious questions as to whether or not cocaine is in any way performance-enhancing. A positive test for cocaine out of competition carries with it no punishment while in-competition, the subsequent suspension can be career-ending or, at the very least, hugely damaging to an athlete’s progress.

I have no dispute to cocaine being on WADA’s banned list, but whether it should carry with it such severe suspensions is another matter entirely. Last year, Castleford rugby league player Zak Hardaker was banned for fourteen months after testing positive for the drug while tennis player Dan Evans was banned for a year from last April for testing positive for cocaine.

Testing positive for any drug on the banned list should carry a suspension but is banning athletes for such a lengthy spell beneficial in any way? It is hard to see how it is.

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Most, if not all, athletes who test positive for cocaine have not taken it in search of enhancing their performance, rather they have taken it on a night out in a moment of madness. This should not be excused, nor should it be treated with undue leniency, but when anti-doping is struggling, and often failing entirely, to catch cheats who have the explicit aim of taking drugs to enhance their performance, the severity with which cocaine is treated seems somewhat unnecessary.

Guerrero’s case only serves to highlight the farcical situation that anti-doping has found itself in. Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez was banned for only six months for clenbuterol, which has far more performance-enhancing properties than cocaine does, yet the Peruvian striker will, most likely, have his career ended by a drug that he seems to have ingested unintentionally and which had very few - if any - benefits to his performance.

There will continue to be calls for Guerrero to represent Peru at the World Cup but they appear to be in vain. But if anything good can come of his case, it will hopefully see a more common-sense approach to anti-doping, and certain substances in particular, adopted.