Peru rejoiced Thursday after captain Paolo Guerrero won a last-ditch legal appeal to play at the World Cup despite being suspended for doping.
The decision by Switzerland’s highest court sparked scenes of joy thousands of miles away in the Peruvian capital Lima, as well as an outpouring of gratitude from the 34-year-old striker.
“It’s a triumph for Peru because we have united our efforts,” Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra said, before calling Guerrero to congratulate him in person.
“This decision does justice, at least partially, and I thank the Swiss court,” Guerrero said on his Facebook page, thanking God, his family, the fans for their “overflowing affection”.
Guerrero said he was now going to join the Peruvian squad “and with my teammates, I commit myself to the greatest effort to give greater joys to my country.
“There are no limits, there are no more impossible dreams, because when we Peruvians unite, everything is possible.”
The Swiss federal tribunal, Guerrero’s last recourse in a lengthy legal battle, announced it had cleared Guerrero to play, overturning a ruling by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that saw him suspended for 14 months.
The Swiss federal tribunal effectively “suspended” the CAS ban and said: “Guerrero can now participate at the next World Cup.”
– My son’s dream come true –
In Lima, dozens of euphoric fans, wearing the national red and white colors and waving Peruvian flags, celebrated outside the house of Guerrero’s mother Petronila Gonzales.
“This is the biggest birthday present I’ve ever had in my life. God is just,” she said after celebrating her 68th birthday two days ago. “My son’s dream is coming true.”
In the city, car horns blared and shouts resounded in the streets from early in the day when radio and television bulletins carried the news from Switzerland.
“This news touches all Peruvians in the heart,” said Mayra Carlessi, 30.
“Now yes, the team is complete, and with Paolo we are a completely different side,” said taxi driver Orlando Mamani.
Guerrero is now free to play for Peru in their first World Cup finals since Spain 1982. They are in Group C alongside France, Denmark and Australia.
The decision was warmly welcomed by the Peruvian football federation (FPF), which had given Guerrero support in recent months in a bid to get him to Russia for their first World Cup appearance in 36 years.
“It’s a great joy, not only for the federation but for the whole of Peru,” the FPF said in a statement.
The FPF had launched Guerrero’s last-ditch appeal Wednesday “with the hope of seeing Paolo at the World Cup, that reflects the feeling of the FPF and the whole country,” according to its president Edwin Oviedo in a statement released in Lima.
The Swiss federal tribunal is the only body with powers to overturn a decision by the CAS. As well as allowing Guerrero to participate in the June 14-July 15 showpiece, it has also given the player hope of seeing his initial 14-month suspension reduced or annulled as it ruled the CAS decision “unjustified”.
“As a result, Paolo Guerrero will be able to participate in the next World Cup.”
The federal tribunal is expected to examine the case in fuller detail following the World Cup.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said in a statement that it noted the decision to “to grant a stay” pending receipt of the CAS’s full motivation for its decision to increase his suspension.
“WADA was always content to wait for the full reasoned decision from CAS before the player was suspended (as noted in today’s SFT decision) and is satisfied that due process is being followed. WADA will therefore not object.”
– Traces of cocaine –
It brings an end to a saga which began when Guerrero attempted to clear his name.
Guerrero, 34, tested positive for traces of cocaine after a World Cup qualifier between Peru and Argentina on October 5.
Initially banned for a year, this was later reduced to six months on appeal last December.
That ban ended on May 3, making Guerrero eligible to play at the June 14-July 15 World Cup in Russia.
But instead of accepting the ruling, Guerrero appealed to CAS in a bid to clear his name. Sport’s top arbitration court responded by increasing the reduced six-month ban to 14 months.
That effectively ruled him out of action until January 2019, and Guerrero was suspended by his Brazilian club, Flamengo.