Palace defender Sakho wins millions in drug test libel case

Big winner: Mamadou Sakho

Mamadou Sakho, the Crystal Palace defender, has accepted “substantial” damages from the World Anti-Doping Agency for defamation over allegations he took banned performance-enhancing drugs.

It had been reported that Sakho was seeking at least £13million in damages, plus costs.

Sakho, 30, was briefly suspended in 2016, when he was a Liverpool player, after a doping control discovered traces in his body of a substance called higenamine.

But UEFA cleared him when it found that fat-burning higenamine was not banned by WADA.

Yesterday, in a statement read in open court at the Royal Courts of Justice, WADA accepted Sakho’s case in full. It apologised for making defamatory allegations to the press following Sakho’s successful appeal against a ban imposed for taking higenamine.

Guy Vassall-Adams QC, representing WADA, said the agency “accepts Mr Sakho did not breach the UEFA anti-doping regulations, did not cheat, had no intention of gaining any advantage and acted in good faith.

“WADA regrets the damage the defamatory allegations caused to Mr Sakho’s reputation and the distress, hurt and embarrassment caused to him.

“To indicate the sincerity of this apology, WADA has agreed with its insurers to pay Mr Sakho a substantial sum of damages. Wada has also agreed to bear Mr Sakho’s reasonable costs.”

Speaking outside the court, Sakho said: “I feel happy. Happy for my family, for all my friends, for the people who were around me during those tough years. It’s not easy when you are a professional athlete and are accused of doping. It is the worst thing that can happen to you.

“I always believed in my lawyers, that’s my squad, my team. We always said the truth would take time to come out and I am happy WADA has said sorry. Now everything is behind me and I just want to look forward.”

Because of his four-week suspension, Sakho missed the Europa League final against Sevilla and claims that the ban cost him a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad. He never played for Liverpool again.

“I consider myself vindicated and now look forward to continuing my career,” a statement released yesterday on behalf of the player said.

Sakhos statement released on Twitter last night

“This is the worst thing you can be accused of, doping. Today is a big day for my story.”

WADA’s problems in this case began when, after Sakho was cleared by UEFA’s disciplinary body in July 2016, they agency issued statements which said Sakho was guilty of taking a prohibited, performance-enhancing drug. In two statements released to the press in 2016 and 2017, WADA had repeated claims that Sakho had taken a banned substance. In the second statement, it claimed Sakho had taken a substance banned since 2004.

Sakho’s barrister Julian Santos said the allegations “were republished by a very large number of media organisations to many millions of readers, causing very serious harm to Mr Sakho’s reputation.

“WADA has apologised and agreed to pay a substantial sum by way of compensation and not to repeat the allegations.”

Details of the amount of the financial settlement have not been disclosed officially.

A former Paris Saint-Germain player, Sakho joined Crystal Palace on loan in 2017, and was transfered to the Selhurst Park club in a £24million permanent deal later that year. He has since made 72 appearances for Crystal Palace.

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