Peru captain Paolo Guerrero has been cleared to play at the Russia 2018 World Cup after the Swiss Supreme Court agreed to suspend his doping ban for cocaine pending the results of an appeal.
Earlier this month, Peruvian football fans had taken to the country’s streets in protest after Guerrero received an increased ban for testing positive for cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine in October 2017.
He was initially handed a year-long ban through November 3 by world football governing body FIFA, which was then reduced to six months.
Guerrero sought to have the ban expunged, claiming the failed test was down to drinking contaminated “coca tea” - tea with coca leaves - rather than deliberate ingestion of the illicit drug.
Despite pleas from professional players' union FIFPro, and a request for FIFA president Gianni Infantino to attend his trial, Guerrero’s ban was increased to 14 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after an appeal against FIFA’s punishment.
The ruling came despite the court accepting that he did not intend to enhance his performance. Guerrero has now been granted leave to play in Russia, as the hearing will take place after the tournament finishes on July 15.
Guerrero, 34, is his country’s top scorer and was instrumental in guiding Peru to their first World Cup since 1982. He will now be free to skipper the side in their matches against Denmark, France and Australia.
In an Instagram post in Spanish, Guerrero thanked those that had supported him to achieve what he called "partial justice", writing: "As the believer that I am, I firstly thank God in whom I have always believed and the invaluable support of my family," he said, CNN reported.
"Of course, I should point out that this would not have been possible without the support of the Peruvian Football Federation and in particular their president Mr Edwin Oviedo, who stayed by my side, in Switzerland, every day until we obtained this favorable result.
"Equally invaluable has been the support of each and every one of my teammates in the national team. They have given me the strength necessary to overcome this difficult moment, but this doesn't surprise me, as that is how a family behaves and that is what we are.
"Of course, also, my eternal gratitude to my country, to the millions of compatriots that have united with me, in thousands of different ways, with a common denominator: overwhelming affection. I invite you to remain united ... As united Peruvians we can achieve anything that appears impossible."
The Russia 2018 World Cup kicks off on June 14 when hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the opening match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.