Since Paul Pogba returned to Juventus in 2022 following his ill-fated world-record move to Manchester United six years earlier, things have not exactly run smoothly.
Knee surgery and subsequent abdominal and hamstring injuries restricted the France midfielder to six Serie A appearances last season. It was a miserable campaign in general for Juve, who finished seventh in the league after a points deduction for capital gains rule violations.
Pogba featured from the bench in Juve’s matches with Bologna and Empoli at the start of the 2023/24, having been an unused substitute for the opening 3-0 win over Udinese.
However, it is the latter game that now looms largest after news that could place the 30-year-old’s remaining elite-level career on the line.
Paul Pogba doping test: Juventus midfielder provisionally suspended
Pogba was selected for a random drugs test after the game in Udine and returned elevated testosterone levels.
The test was conducted by Italy’s National Anti-Doping Tribunal (NADO) and Pogba has been handed a provisional suspension on account of the adverse finding.
He has three days to provide an explanation, along with any counter-evidence and analysis, to NADO. A ‘B’ sample will be tested to verify the initial positive result.
In a statement, the National Anti-Doping Tribunal (NADT) said: “The National Anti-Doping Tribunal, accepting the instance proposed by the National Anti-Doping Prosecutor’s Office, has provisionally suspended the athlete Paul Labile Pogba (FIGC member) for the violation of articles 2.1, 2.2 (Non-endogenous testosterone metabolites (Substance detected: The GC/c/IRMS results are consistent with the exogenous origin of the target compounds). The test was carried out by NADO Italia.”
Juventus said: “Juventus Football Club announces that today, 11 September, 2023, the footballer Paul Labile Pogba received a precautionary suspension order from the National Anti-Doping Tribunal following the results of tests carried out on 20 August, 2023.
“The club reserves the right to consider the next procedural steps.”
What is testosterone and why is it a banned substance?
Testosterone is a hormone that occurs naturally in humans and high levels can increase the endurance of athletes.
Drug violations relating to testosterone tend to fall under two categories: an athlete taking synthetic testosterone or using supplements to boost testosterone levels.
If a drugs test finds an individual’s testosterone level is above the expected naturally occurring level then it is possible that a doping violation has taken place.
That can often mean a lengthy process of investigations and appeals that Pogba looks likely to embark upon.
Will Paul Pogba be banned from football?
If found guilty of a serious doping offence, Pogba could face a ban of four years.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code advises that any athlete testing positive for a banned substance should be prohibited from competition for such a period.
If the athlete can prove that they did not intentionally take the substance in question, the ban can be reduced to two years.
WADA operates under the principle of “strict liability”, which means the athlete is responsible for any substance found in their body, regardless of how it got there.
Pogba is now awaiting the results of his B-sample — a specimen taken from the same test but stored separately — and there is a recent example of a Serie A footballer having a doping ban overturned.
Atalanta defender Jose Luis Palomino tested positive for clostebol metabolites in July 2022 and was sidelined for four months before being cleared on November 7 last year.
An anti-doping tribunal cleared Palomino of wrongdoing and declared the positive had been caused by accidental contamination.
What has Paul Pogba said?
Pogba is yet to comment publicly on his positive test.
The player’s agent Rafaela Pimenta told RMC Sport: “We are awaiting the counter-analysis and we can’t have an opinion before the results.
“What is certain is that Paul Pogba never meant to break a rule.”
Paul Pogba stats, career, trophies won
Pogba performed superbly for France as they secured World Cup glory in 2018, scoring in the 4-2 final victory over Croatia.
However, his club career had already begun to sharply divide opinions by this stage as his return to Manchester United yielded mixed results.
After winning the EFL Cup and Europa League in the 2016/17 season, Pogba’s relationship with then-manager Jose Mourinho soured.
A relative upturn under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not yield any further major honours and Pogba limping off 10 minutes into a 4-0 thrashing against Liverpool in April 2022 was a grimly fitting final United appearance.
To a large extent, Pogba’s career since leaving Juventus in 2016 has been a story of trying to recapture a phenomenal period of success in Turin.
Between 2012/13 and 2015/16 he claimed four consecutive Serie A titles, starring alongside Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio in an imperious midfield quartet as Massimiliano Allegri’s side reached the Champions League final in 2015.
They were beaten by the Barcelona of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar but showpiece occasions were generally a time to shine for Juve in that era as they won the Coppa Italia twice and three Supercoppe Italiana.