|Peru striker Paolo Guerrero. — Photo elcomercio.pe|
LIMA — Peru striker Paolo Guerrero has received the backing of players’ union FIFPro ahead of a meeting with FIFA’s president to try to overturn a drugs ban that could keep him out of the World Cup.
FIFPro said the 14-month ban for taking cocaine was "unfair and disproportionate" and said its representatives wanted to meet FIFA as well to plead 34-year-old Guerrero’s case.
FIFPro said the ban was "the latest example of a World Anti-Doping Code that too often leads to inappropriate sanctions, especially when it has been established that there was no intent to cheat".
It recalled that both FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had agreed that 34-year-old Guerrero did not knowingly ingest the substance and that there was no performance-enhancing effect.
Guerrero, who says he accidentally ingested the cocaine in tea, said in a message on Facebook that he was hopeful his meeting with FIFA supremo Gianni Infantino could lead to a breakthrough.
"A hope has appeared that I could play in the World Cup. That is my big dream... I hope to return with good news," he said.
Guerrero, who had been set to captain Peru in Russia, already has the backing of Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra and his international teammate Luis Advincula on Sunday led hundreds of fans in a prayer for Guerrero.
The captains of France, Australia and Denmark -- Peru’s group stage opponents at the finals -- also voiced their support for Guerrero on Monday in a letter addressed to FIFA.
"Peru is returning to football’s ultimate stage after a 36-year absence and we believe Paolo Guerrero should be allowed to lead his nation and celebrate what will be a career highlight," read the letter signed by Hugo Lloris, Mile Jedinak and Simon Kjaer.
"In our view, it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career - an achievement he has worked so hard for, and for so many years - on the basis of a finding which confirms that he did not intend to cheat and did not intend to enhance his performance with prohibited substances," it continued.
"As such, we turn to the FIFA Council and kindly put forward an urgent request for clemency by asking the FIFA Council to temporarily interrupt the ban imposed on Paolo Guerrero during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, with the suspension to recommence at the conclusion of Peru’s participation in the competition."
CAS last month extended his ban from six months to 14 months. — AFP