'Shocked' Paul Pogba vows to fight 'incorrect' four-year doping ban

Juventus and France midfielder says he has 'never knowingly or deliberately' taken any supplements that breach anti-doping regulations

Paul Pogba has been provisionally suspended by the Italian league since September after a failed drugs test in August 2023. AFP
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French footballer Paul Pogba said he was "shocked and heartbroken" after being handed a four-year ban by Italy's anti-doping tribunal following a positive test for testosterone last August.

The midfielder, 30, and his Italian club Juventus were notified of the decision on Thursday.

Pogba had been provisionally suspended since September after the results of a ‘B’ sample test also came back positive.

The former Manchester United player says he plans to appeal to decision, but the length of the ban raises serious doubts about whether the 2019 World Cup winner's career could be over.

"I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me," he posted on Instagram.

Declaring the verdict was "incorrect", he denied ever using performance-enhancing substances.

"When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations", he added.

"As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport."

Anti-doping prosecutors had called for the four-year ban to be imposed on the former Manchester United midfielder, who tested positive following Juventus's opening match of the Italian Serie A season against Udinese on August 20, during which he was an unused substitute.

A month later a B sample confirmed the presence of testosterone, and he had been provisionally suspended since.

Pogba's representatives said the testosterone came from a food supplement prescribed by a doctor he consulted in the United States.

The ban could have been limited to two years if Pogba had been able to prove he was not at fault, or even just a few months if the use of the substance took place "out of competition and [was] not related to his level of performance".

Pogba, who returned to Juventus for a second spell in 2022 after six years at United, was a key member of the France team that won the World Cup in Russia in 2018, scoring in the final against Croatia.

The move back to Turin had not gone well. Injuries and fitness problems restricted Pogba to just 10 appearances last season. He also missed France's defence of their World Cup title in Qatar in December 2022.

He made two substitute appearances for Juventus at the start of this campaign before being suspended.

France national team coach Didier Deschamps said he "could not imagine" that Pogba "had the intention, the desire to take drugs".

"What Paul has been experiencing for several months is extremely hard and I obviously cannot remain indifferent to his pain, given everything he has achieved," said Deschamps in a statement.

"Such a situation saddens me. I hope it can be resolved. I want to believe in that.

"The presence of doping is not in doubt. The problem exists, and Paul faces another battle to defend himself in CAS and convince the judges that he did not knowingly take prohibited substances."

The doping ban is the latest saga in Pogba's career as he has also been troubled by off-field issues.

An investigation is ongoing in France into an extortion attempt against him in March 2022, which involved a break-in at his home in the Paris suburbs.

Two intruders allegedly held Pogba against his will demanding €13 million ($14.1 million).

Pogba's older brother Mathias is one of the suspects involved in the case, along with childhood friends of the family.

His contract at Juventus, worth a reported €8 million a season, runs until 2026.

However, he has been unable to train since the announcement of the positive test and Juve have suspended payment of his salary.

Pogba made just a handful of appearances in his first spell in England before becoming a star at Juve between 2012 and 2016.

In that time he won four straight Serie A titles and played in the Juventus side that lost to Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final.

He returned to United in 2016 for a reported €105 million, a world record fee at the time, and won the Europa League and League Cup in his first season back, playing under Jose Mourinho.

Pogba has won 91 caps for France, and played in the team that got to the final of Euro 2016 before their World Cup triumph two years later.

Pogba was in Abu Dhabi this week to speak at the Impact Summit on investment. He has been linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League in the summer. However, with his appeal to CAS set to drag out, Pogba's immediate focus will be on trying to clear his name.

Updated: March 01, 2024, 8:16 AM