LONDON: Mamadou Sakho has received substantial damage and a rare apology from the World Anti-Doping Agency for asserting wrongly that the Crystal Palace defender had failed a drugs test during his time at Liverpool.
Sakho was suspended after testing positive in March 2016 for fat-burner higenamine, which was not on WADA’s list of banned substances. The French centre-back, who was playing for Liverpool at the time, served a provisional 30-day ban from all European football, which saw him miss the Europa League final and Euro 2016.
Sakho’s ban expired in May 2016, at which point higenamine was found to not be on the banned list, with UEFA dismissing the case in July 2016, before going on to criticise WADA a year later over failing to provide clarity over the substance’s status.
WADA, despite opting not to appeal against UEFA’s ruling, responded with a statement rejecting criticism, but now, more than three years on, has accepted this was a mistake.
Sakho, who joined Palace on a four-year deal in August 2017, sued WADA for defamation and, at a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday, accepted an apology from the agency and an undisclosed sum in damages.
A WADA statement said: “WADA retracts and apologises for the defamatory allegations made in the First Press Statement and the Second Press Statement.
“WADA accepts that it should not have made the defamatory allegations it did in the First Press Statement and the Second Press Statement given that Mr Sakho had been acquitted by UEFA.
“WADA accepts that Mr Sakho did not breach the UEFA Anti-Doping Regulations, did not cheat, had no intention of gaining any advantage, and acted in good faith.
“WADA regrets the damage the defamatory allegations caused to Mr Sakho’s reputation and the distress, hurt and embarrassment caused to him. To indicate the sincerity of this apology, WADA has agreed with its insurers to pay Mr Sakho a substantial sum of damages. WADA has also agreed to bear Mr Sakho’s reasonable costs.”
Sakho’s demands for damages were based around his assertion that the drugs ban brought a premature end to his Liverpool career, harming his commercial value in the process.
The 30-year-old joined Palace from Liverpool in August 2017 and has remained with the south London club since. Meanwhile, having been a regular fixture for his country before the ban, Sakho has made just one international appearance since.
Sakho, speaking outside court, said: “I feel happy, happy for my family, happy for all my friends, for all the people who were around me during this tough year because it is not easy when you are a professional footballer or athlete.
“This is the worst thing you can be accused of, doping.
“Today is a big day for my story. I think it is important for athletes to have this kind of example and to be careful about everything they are taking.”