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Hichem Cherif: The Story of an Algerian Footballer Mired in a Failed Doping Test

Hicham Cherif’s three-year stay at domestic Algerian Premier League club Mouloudia Clube d’ Alger (MC Alger) has been all perfect until a sudden spectacular fall from grace ruined it days ago.

Hicham Cherif’s three-year stay at domestic Algerian Premier League club Mouloudia Clube d’ Alger (MC Alger) has been all perfect until a sudden spectacular fall from grace ruined it days ago.

The decline in relevance, leaving behind a tattered reputation, is the cause of Hichem Cherif El Ouzzani’s sorry mood – a thing that could potentially go on to haunt him for the rest of the remaining years in his career, that is, if he at all gets to play again.

Sitting on a recliner and donning a hoodie with a matching black-colored cap thrown backward, the 23-year-old is not the one to speak to the press often. However, he must this time, because the occasion demands.

Hichem Cherif is mired in a scandal whose outcome could determine what becomes of him in the game. The story is, traces of Methylergonovine and Benzoylecgonine were found in the player’s samples collected by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA).

Methylergonovine is a drug belonging to the class of Ergot Alkaloids, in some cases medically used to control bleeding at birth; while Benzoylecgonine is the compound tested in substantive cocaine urinalysis. The two were reportedly found in the midfielder’s submitted samples.

The tests are a mandatory procedure conducted on athletes, including footballers, aimed at ridding the sport of cheating.

Taken in the immediate aftermath of the domestic league derby clash with CRB, it never occurred to MC Alger that their player could be caught up in a doping scandal. News of the failed drugs test spread like wildfire. The natural reaction for any club caught up in a scandal of this nature would be to conceal and minimize damage. Alger’s reaction was no different but they were prompted to take further action when the Professional Football League went ahead to reveal the story, posting it on its website.

Capped with Algeria’s national team, the midfielder has been issued with a suspension by the league’s disciplinary committee, arriving at a time the club was preparing for a rescheduled match with Estente Sportif Setif, a fixture later postponed.

Documents detailing the player’s doping offenses, from the Wada’s Lausanne laboratory, landed at the league committee’s desk last week, a source says.

Owing to the gravity of the case hovering over his head, MC Ahass have reportedly asked the player to return home in Oran, a port city situated in the northwest of Algeria.

A scheduled hearing awaits him on Wednesday where he is expected to appear before an ethics committee to explain his version of events.

Speculation is already being bandied about that a four-year ban could be imposed on Cherif which then would mean he could only return to football when turns 28.

And in the heat of the moment, there are also emerging reports claiming the substances found in the sample are cocaine instead of being cocaine related.

Against this backdrop, Hichem opted to open up on the matter for the first time.

“I am a son from a good family and everyone knows my education, whether it is in my entourage or that of my teammates in the team, the staff technical and managers. So I have never taken drugs or anything else. I have only taken drugs that may contain these substances but not the actual substance (cocaine),” he says venturing to explain.

A Hidden Secret

A hemorrhoids surgery –hidden from club doctors for fear of seclusion –forced him to use the said substances to alleviate the pain he felt during team workouts.

“I want to let you know, and this is the first time I’m speaking about this. I had hemorrhoids surgery. I did it in secret and it’s for the simple reason that I did not want to be removed from the plans of the coaching staff because if they’d learned that I had had surgery, I would have been definitely given a long rest, which would have harmed me sports-wise, knowing that I don’t play often.”

“After the intervention I underwent, I felt pain in the workouts, and my doctor prescribed medication to relieve it, especially since I also felt pains at night,” he says.

I Made a Mistake

There is no doubting the committee investigating his case on Wednesday will attempt to get to the bottom of this seemingly curious case.

Judgments, crucifixions and tagging of cheating the sport, emanating from those looking in from outside, are harsh realities he admits, to already having to deal with.

He is remorseful though by his tone.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “I admit that I made a mistake in concealing this secret from my team and I did not know what these drugs contained. It is true that I have had but I wish that the sanction (to be imposed on me) is not heavy, and I will explain what I just said before the Disciplinary Committee, this Wednesday.”   [/perfectpullquote]

However, the Desert Foxes attacker’s show of contrition is being interpreted in some quarters as a move to beguile authorities, but the under-fire star insists he has no such plans.

There were even claims he wanted to skip the tests knowing his chances of being caught –an assertion he strongly repudiates, saying he would have simply feigned injury to avoid being subjected to a test.

“All that was said is completely wrong, because before the game I had learned that doping officials were present on 5th July 2018, to test players after the end of the match, and if I had had something to hide, I would have just feigned a warm-up injury to go home.”

“You can see that this is just nonsense and at the time of the test at the end of the game, I found it difficult to urinate and that because of the medical problem I told you. Once again, I want to tell you that I did not know that these drugs contained prohibited products.”

“Knowing that the reputation of my father has even harmed me, because people wanted to break Cherif El Ouazzani (my father) through his son and I’m not crazy to dirty his name, “El Ouazzani Jnr said.

It won’t be long until the outcome of this saga is known. For now apprehension reigns.

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