Peru's Paolo Guerrero on FIFA ban: I haven't taken any type of cocaine
Peru captain Paolo Guerrero has denied taking cocaine and feels he is the "victim of an injustice" after FIFA banned him for a year.
Flamengo striker Guerrero failed a drugs test on Oct. 5 after a World Cup qualifying match against Argentina and was provisionally suspended for 30 days.
FIFA said he had "tested positive for cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine, a substance included on WADA's 2017 Prohibited List," and he was last week banned for 12 months, meaning he will miss the 2018 World Cup.
"I feel like I am the victim of an injustice," Guerrero told Brazilian channel Globo Esporte. "I'm innocent. I haven't done anything. I'm very angry.
"It's difficult for me to understand this, the injustice that I'm going through."
The 33-year-old denied ever taking cocaine or any other drug in his 17-year playing career and said he had undergone "thousands of anti-doping tests" which came out negative.
"I've always been a dedicated professional," he said. "Even FIFA discarded a possible drug consumption and they cannot say now that I'm guilty.
"I haven't taken any type of cocaine. I would be crazy to have a coca tea because I know it could hinder me.
"I had an anise tea in Peru because I had indigestion, and I had black tea with lemon and honey in Argentina because I had the flu. I don't blame anyone, but the substance [cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine] could have been in a jar or a cup."
Guerrero was Peru's joint top scorer in qualifying with five goals, but missed the playoff win over New Zealand after FIFA provisionally banned him while prosecuting the case.
Guerrero's 12-month ban covers "all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures."
He said: "It's the saddest time in my career. I'm suspended. I haven't played the most important games of my life [with Peru] and now I'm not playing in a [Copa Sudamericana] final with my club. It's a very complicated, critical time."
Guerrero will appeal to FIFA and hopes to have the ban overturned by January.
"I want to play now," he said. "I hope to return to play normally with Flamengo at the start of the year. Right now playing at the World Cup is not my first priority, but playing again for Flamengo is."
Peru, who have not played in a World Cup in 35 years, were drawn last week in a group with France, Denmark and Australia.
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.