Editor’s note: While the following isn’t an article about the USMNT, it does have important consequences on CONCACAF, the Gold Cup and the US men’s national team.
In the face of five Mexican players testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs after the El Salvador game, should the result still stand? Not all five players played in the match, in fact, two of them didn’t even make the 18-man match roster. However, three of the five players did and two of those three started. The third was an unused substitute.
The fact that just one of the five played in the match should be enough to make Mexico forfeit their win, the +5 goal difference, and three points. This is where it gets sticky. Did the players knowingly take the drugs? How much, if at all, did the Mexican Federation know? Are there B-samples and what were the test results of those samples? If the 5-0 Mexico result turned into a 2-0 El Salvador win, Mexico would immediately appeal the decision. Now, someone has to hear the appeal and given the current state of CONCACAF who is trustworthy enough to hear such an appeal and hear it in a timely manner.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical time line if CONCACAF overturned the result of the game:
- Within in hours of the decision: Mexico appeals the decision
- Ideally within 24 hours: Tests are conducted on the B-Samples
- Within in 48-72 hours: CONCACAF convenes and renders a decision based on the all information
At this point, everything would be okay. Except if, CONCACAF reverses it’s initial decision and gives Mexico the win back. Does El Salvador appeal CONCACAF’s second decision and if they do, who do they appeal do? The logical place would be the Court of Arbitration for Sports. But this case would not be the first case on the docket and may takes weeks, if not, months for the court to come a decision. The competition is still going on and possibly over before the CAS reaches a decision.
This is an interesting case because one of my tenet’s of sports is, “you can change the rules and, as a result, the results of competition once it starts.” However, it can be argued that Mexico changed the rules and tried to tilt the competition in their favor by having some athletes on performance-enhancing drugs. So, the tenet may not apply since the rules were changed by just one party and the other 11 parties were participating under the agreed upon rules.
Normally, I would say that the result should be overturned — given the time-sensitive nature of the competition the appeals process may not conclude by the time the competition is over. This leads me down the path that CONCACAF will be forced to retroactively punish Mexico should these allegations be proven true. Who could really get punished in this scenario, the 18 Mexican players who did not test positive for performance enhancers and possibly players who compete in the future for Mexico should CONCACAF really bring the hammer down and keep Mexico out of a future Gold Cup, Olympic Qualifier, etc. The potential of CONCACAF punishing Mexico by keeping them out of future competitions is small but is something that needs to be brought up as a possibility.
In the past, a player on a team tested positive for performance enhancer and the player was removed from competition and the competition moved on without any punishment to the team. This is the first case, to the best of my knowledge, that positive drug tests happened to multiple players on the team. And goes back to my initial questions of did the players know and, more importantly, did the Mexican Federation know? If the federation did know, then all of the punishments brought up could be on the table. It will be an interesting case to watch as the Gold Cup moves forward.