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Paul Pogba tested positive for testosterone during a doping control on August 20, following the match between his team, Juventus, and Udine (Italy). The French international has been provisionally suspended, according to an announcement by the Italian anti-doping agency (NADO) on Monday, September 11.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a naturally occurring steroid hormone secreted by the human sexual organs, particularly during adolescence when boys produce testosterone in greater quantities than girls to develop male physical markers – such as muscle mass or body hair. It plays an essential role in the development and functioning of male sexuality and fertility.
The molecule is also used therapeutically to treat serious pathologies, in particular certain cancers. It can also be administered to combat depression and sleep disorders and to boost sex drive.
In sports, however, testosterone is considered a performance-enhancing substance. As such, it appears on the list of prohibited products published by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which classifies the substance as anabolic androgenic steroids.
The French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) determined, in its 2022 activity report, that despite the growing sophistication of doping methods, anabolic agents are still the substances most frequently detected during tests (31% of cases). It is “one of the products most frequently used by athletes who take drugs,” confirmed Michel Audran, former director of the French anti-doping laboratory.
What are the effects of testosterone?
When administered artificially (by injection, orally in tablet form or via a patch or gel applied directly to the skin), testosterone can enhance sporting performance. It is mainly used to increase muscular power – although steroids, which are used in strength events such as weightlifting, are more “efficient” – and increases resistance to physical effort tenfold. The hormone also acts as a psychostimulant to boost the athlete’s concentration and motivation.
Among the most famous cases of testosterone doping in the history of sport are the institutionalized system used by athletes from the former East Germany. Or US cyclist Floyd Landis who tested positive after winning the 2006 Tour de France. His compatriot Justin Gatlin, a 100-meter specialist, was suspended from 2006 to 2010 before making a controversial return to the track.
More recently, Richard Freeman, former doctor to the Sky cycling team, was suspended in August for the same period, notably for possession of testosterone. In his defense, he had claimed that the hormone batches were intended for the British team’s sporting director to treat erectile dysfunction, however, the latter firmly denied that this was the case.
What is at risk for Pogba?
The French international has been suspended on a provisional basis. If the second test on his B sample confirms the presence of testosterone in his system, Pogba risks a four-year suspension as stipulated in the World Anti-Doping Code. Laboratory analyses now make it easy to determine whether the amount of testosterone detected in the Juventus midfielder is of endogenous origin (natural production) or exogenous, and therefore the result of taking a doping product.
But if Pogba can prove that doping was not intentional, he can get his suspension reduced to two years. Or even to three months if he can establish that the absorption or use of the substance took place “outside competition and is not related to his level of performance,” said the Italian Anti-Doping Agency. An analysis of the player’s hair should establish whether it is a case of intensive or exceptional consumption of testosterone, which, in the latter case, could have been ingested via a sexual performance enhancer or dietary supplements.
In its 2022 activity report, the AFLD warned of the dangers of consuming over-the-counter food supplements, particularly those sold on the Internet, whose composition is very often only partially detailed.
Paul Pogba provisionally suspended for doping, risks 4-year ban
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Juventus and France midfielder Paul Pogba has been provisionally suspended after a doping control detected elevated levels of testosterone, Italian anti-doping authorities (Nado) told AFP on Monday, September 11. After a nightmare season between injuries and a blackmail affair, the 30-year-old’s dreams of bouncing back were shattered by the alleged doping offense after Juventus’s 3-0 win at Udinese on August 20, during which he was an unused substitute.
On Monday, the 2018 world champion told Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera of his “desire to play” after a “difficult year” that could have “destroyed” him. Instead, he received a new blow. Nado said Pogba had violated anti-doping rules when they found the prohibited substance “non-endogenous testosterone metabolites”. Juventus said in a statement that Pogba had “received a precautionary suspension”. “The club reserves the right to consider the next procedural steps,” the statement added. The test concerns the ‘A’ sample, and if the ‘B’ sample also tests positive for testosterone Pogba could face a four-year ban.
Pogba rejoined Juventus in July 2022 from Manchester United. From 2012 to 2016 he had helped Juve win four Serie A titles and two Italian Cups, and reach the Champions League final in 2015. Pogba had been a star player in France’s 2018 World Cup triumph but had an awful 2022-2023 season blighted by injury and a multi-million euro blackmail plot involving childhood friends and one of his brothers.
He played just ten games for Juventus that season and missed the 2022 World Cup with France. Last season he played six Serie A games but had been slated for a return to action against Lazio at the weekend and said in the interview with Al Jazeera he was raring to go. “I’ve had a difficult year so I’ve this anger and this wish to play football,” Pogba told Al Jazeera.
“The only people that can hurt you are the people close to you. Enemies you know where they are, but friends, family, that you think they’re happy for you, they can destroy you,” he said. “You have to be careful, money changes people, can break up a family,” he said of the multimillion euros extortion efforts by former friends and his own brother Mattias.
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