Elite footballer secures apology and compensation from the World Anti-Doping Agency

Dominic Kendrick QC
Richard Waller QC
James Goudkamp

In 2016, Mr Mamadou Sakho, an elite professional footballer, gave an anti-doping sample following a UEFA Europa League match between Liverpool Football Club and Manchester United Football Club. The sample contained the substance Higenamine, which is an ingredient of a dietary supplement that Mr Sakho had taken. Mr Sakho was then charged with a violation of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (“WADA’s”) Code on the basis that Higenamine was a Beta-2 Agonist falling within a category of prohibited substances on WADA’s Prohibited List.

A UEFA disciplinary tribunal acquitted Mr Sakho. WADA then defamed Mr Sakho. This led to Mr Sakho issuing claims against WADA for defamation and negligence in the High Court. On Wednesday 4 November 2020, a statement was read out in open court.

Counsel for WADA told the Court:

WADA retracts and apologises for the defamatory allegations … 

WADA accepts that it should not have made the defamatory allegations it did … given that Mr Sakho had been acquitted by UEFA.  WADA accepts that 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 the 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.

After that statement was made, Mr Sakho said:

“An agreed Statement in Open Court has been read out and my dispute with WADA is closed!

I am pleased with WADA’s acceptance that I did not breach the UEFA Anti-Doping Regulations, did not cheat, had no intention of gaining any advantage and acted in good faith.

I am also pleased that WADA has apologised to me and agreed to pay a substantial sum in damages.

I consider myself vindicated and now look forward to continuing my career.

There is nothing worse for an athlete than the suspicion of doping. I have lived through it with all the consequences it has had for my career, my image and even my personal life. Fortunately, many people believed in me. My family, friends and supporters have always been there. I thank them very much.

Receiving the official apology from WADA was for me something essential to be able to turn this page, to continue to move forward and above all to pass on my experience.

Always fight to the end to defend your convictions!”

Mr Sakho’s counsel team in the High Court litigation included Dominic Kendrick QC, Richard Waller QC and James Goudkamp. They were instructed by Morgan Sports Law.

Date added: November 11th, 2020


Area of Expertise

Professional negligence