LONDON • Crystal Palace defender Mamadou Sakho has won “substantial” damages from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) over allegations he had taken banned performance-enhancing drugs.
“I consider myself innocent,” he said in a statement. “To officially receive the apology from Wada was for me something essential in order to be able to definitively turn the page.”
The former Liverpool defender was briefly suspended in 2016 after he tested positive for a fat-burning substance called higenamine after a Europa League game against Manchester United in March that year.
He subsequently missed the Reds’ Europa League final against Sevilla and, he also alleged, a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad as a result of his suspension.
He also claimed the wrongful suspension cost him his career at Anfield, with his lawyers arguing that “his earnings as a player and the worth of his personal brand were reduced by his move away from Liverpool”.
The 30-year-old was ultimately cleared in July 2016 by Uefa’s disciplinary body, which found higenamine was not on Wada’s banned list and the agency’s own laboratories were unsure about its status.
Wada, however, issued two statements, to The Daily Telegraph in August 2016 and to The Guardian in April 2017, which said Sakho was guilty of taking a prohibited performance-enhancing drug.
It also argued his sale to Palace was caused by “disciplinary issues” and a “personality clash” with manager Jurgen Klopp.
Sakho, who moved to Palace in 2017, sued Wada for defamation last year and, at a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday, accepted an apology from the body as well as an undisclosed sum in damages.
His barrister, Julian Santos, said that the defamatory allegations “were republished by a very large number of media organisations to many millions of readers, causing very serious harm to Mr Sakho’s reputation”.
He added: “Wada has apologised and agreed to pay a substantial sum by way of compensation and not to repeat the allegations.”
Lawyer Guy Vassall-Adams, representing Wada, said: “Wada accepts that it should not have made the defamatory allegations it did… 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.”
After the hearing, Sakho told reporters: “I’m pleased with Wada’s acceptance that I did not breach the Uefa anti-doping regulations, did not cheat, had no intention of gaining any advantage and acted in good faith.
“I am also pleased that Wada has apologised to me and agreed to pay a substantial sum in damages.
“I consider myself vindicated and now look forward to continuing my career.
“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.
“This is the worst thing you can be accused of – doping. Today is a big day for my story.”
Higenamine, which is a chemical compound found in a variety of plants and can act as a general stimulant to increase cardiac output, has since been added to Wada’s prohibited list in 2017, and is now banned both in and out of competition.