Last week, it was revealed that Stoke City forward Saido Berahino had been banned for eight weeks for taking “recreational drugs”.
The news was never revealed to the public until it was leaked, reportedly from his old club West Bromwich Albion where the offence occurred, and the ban was also kept hush-hush behind a Tony Pulis wall of “he’s not fit enough” or consequences still on-going from a transfer dispute almost two years old.
The Sun have also reported that the drug in question was of the Class A variety, which under criminal law would carry a potential seven-year jail sentence and an unlimited fine if found guilty of possession.
Now soak all of that in.
So why didn’t anyone know any of this as soon as it happened?
First of all, it’s clear why West Brom kept the new in-house. Any potential ban like that could seriously hamper the value of a player they believe could still fetch them a pretty penny, even if issues surrounding his fitness and team cohesion hadn’t helped in the first place.
Second, it’s also clear why Stoke would have liked to have kept it on the down low. A new player that they hope they can revive without too much scrutiny has suddenly been launched back into the spotlight for a mistake he made on the Baggies’ watch, not theirs.
Both were trying to protect their player, for different reasons, looking after a potentially misguided young man. It’s a reasonably hefty mistake, that many other 22/23 year olds do not make, but a first misdemeanour for someone in a place of power is always a slap on the wrist.
What is not clear, however, is why the Football Association deemed it appropriate to keep the news away from the public. Again, the argument to protect the player could be trotted out but that’s a pretentious stance for them to take when in all honesty, that’s not their quota.
It also becomes hypocritical when they publish big bans like when Rio Ferdinand was banned for nine months for missing a drugs test or Mark Bosnich was banned for the same amount of time for testing positive for cocaine.
If The Sun are correct and it’s a Class A drug, as described above, for any other member of society it would come with a pretty significant punishment.
Even if it was a lesser class drug like Cannabis, which would better explain the shortness of the ban, why was it kept under wraps? Does that mean others get off lightly? What about those who are doing less?
Especially when players like Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish were chastised for seeking legal highs while a player who has made an illegal mistake is swept under the rug. How the FA can stand to punish anyone else for this kind of matter and get away without a big appeal pointing to this leads to the fact that this could lead to a much wider, deeper problem.
This is not to say Berahino should have been made an example of. He was given due process, he served his ban and is now back playing, it’s not an issue for him to reveal it if others are unwilling to do so.
The FA, on the other hand, have a lot to answer for. This is a bad precedent to set, not revealing a serious issue like this will lead to either others getting away with it and the potential for future leaks through the media could look very ugly for an officiating body under increasing scrutiny.