UEFA’s CSKA Moscow doping dilemma

While Russian football fans may have celebrated CSKA Moscow becoming the first Russian team to qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, celebrations may have to be put on hold or come to an end.  Two players from the CSKA team, Aleksei Berezutsky and Sergei Ignashevich, tested positive for a banned substiance after their November 3rd match against Manchester United in Old Trafford.  UEFA have not released to the public what the banned substance is and that is perhaps the key element in what a potential punishment could be.  The samples revealed that the substance was on the list of “S6 stimulants” published on the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency.  Some of these stimulants include amphetamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), sibutramine (Meridia, a weight loss agent) and selegiline (which is actually used for Parkinson’s disease).

CSKA has come out in defense of the players.  The club claims that the players were given Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) because of colds during their international duty.  Pseudoephedrine isn’t on UEFA’s list of banned substances.  While the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be bought is limited to about 9 grams a month in the United States, it is unknown (at least to me) how much can be bought in Russia or Europe itself.  The rumor has gone about that it was stimulants that were found in the samples, but until UEFA comes out and says what the banned substance isolated is, it can only be dismissed as pure speculation.  Also remember that this is only their A samples, the B samples have yet to be tested.

Now there are some that might say that the players would get banned and CSKA Moscow could move on to the knockout stages anyway.  Perhaps that argument can be made if it was one player on the team.  UEFA can then just ban the player for a year or so and it would be treated as an isolated incident.  The important thing here is that there were two players caught in one match, and that’s a completely different story.  Two players on the same team tested for a banned substance is cause for concern.

There are some arguments over what the aftermath of the punishment should be.  UEFA could punish the club by making them forfeit CSKA’s entire Champions League campaign.  This might seem like it is harsh, and some have argued that FIFA could enter into the fray, or CSKA could take it to the CAS.  However, this competition is under the auspices of UEFA, and since it’s only a continental competition, it’s doubtful that FIFA could get involved.  Plus, considering the negative image that doping has in sport period, UEFA will have to come down hard on the players at least, and perhaps the club itself.

Perhaps if there should be a comparison to be made for any punishment, it would have to come from cycling.  Cycling has been nearly ruined as a sport because of all the doping scandals that have occurred within the last few years.  To the credit of cycling, the UCI, the sport’s governing body, has really laid the hammer down on teams that cheat.

Whatever the decision, UEFA will get criticism.  Most likely, UEFA will probably suspend the players and the club will be able to continue on in the UEFA Champions League.  If UEFA decided to disqualify the club, there will be people who will say that is unfair that the club has to suffer because of two players.  Should UEFA just suspend the players, there will be people who will criticize UEFA for not being harsh enough against doping.  UEFA will have to tread lightly and come up with the best decision possible and minimize the damage done to the prestige of the sport and criticism they will get from people on both sides of the aisle.  It’ll be an interesting decision, and it will take place December 17th, one day before the Champions League knockout draw.