Mamadou Sakho speaks at the Fifa Medical Centre of Excellence in Dubai
Mamadou Sakho Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Dubai: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will have to go through a highly embarrassing and costly setback after it agreed to pay former Liverpool footballer Mamadou Sakho a substantial amount in damages while settling a long-running dispute.

In a statement in open court in the High Court of Justice in London on Thursday, WADA’s counsel retracted and apologised for defamatory allegations and said that WADA accepted that the French international defender “did not breach the Uefa anti-doping regulations, did not cheat, had no intention of gaining any advantage, and acted in good faith”.

The WADA counsel has furthermore regretted “the damage the defamatory allegations caused to Mr Sakho’s reputation and the distress, hurt and embarrassment caused”.

While agreeing to bear the footballer’s reasonable costs in court, the agency has “agreed with its insurers to pay Mr Sakho a substantial sum of damages”.

The dispute dates back to 2016 when the now 30-year-old Sakho — a regular to the UAE — served a voluntary provisional suspension after testing positive for the fat-burning substance higenamine following a Uefa Europa League clash with Manchester United.

The substance was in a dietary supplement he was taking and the suspension resulted in the centre-back missing the rest of the 2015-2016 season, including Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat by Sevilla in the Europa League final.

In July 2016, however, European football body UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body dismissed the case against Sakho, concluding ‘inter alia’ that it had not been proved that higenamine was on WADA’s prohibited list.

According to the decision, it was “unreasonable to expect an athlete to have a greater understanding of a substance than a WADA-accredited laboratory and its scientists”. Higenamine was specifically included on WADA’s prohibited list in January 2017.

Since that incident, Sakho has moved away from Liverpool and joined Premier League side Crystal Palace. He is well-known for his tackling ability and passing accuracy. Sakho began his career at Paris FC before moving across to Paris Saint-Germain’s youth system in 2002.

In 2013, Sakho transferred to Liverpool for £18 million (Dh86.87 million). He had a loan spell with Palace in 2017, and was subsequently bought by the team for £26 million on September 1, 2017.