Flamengo striker Barbosa suspended for 2 years in doping fraud case

FILE - Gabriel Barbosa of Brazil's Flamengo stands on the pitch during a Copa Libertadores group A soccer match against Argentina's Racing Club at Presidente Peron stadium in Avellaneda, Argentina, May 4, 2023. Barbosa was suspended for two years on March 25, 2024 following a doping fraud investigation. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello, File)
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SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian striker Gabriel Barbosa was suspended for two years on Monday following a doping fraud investigation.

The country's Anti-Doping Sports Court of Justice voted 5-4 to punish Barbosa to April 2025.

He brought attention to himself by his erratic behavior during a surprise test on April 8, 2023, one day before Flamengo played the Rio de Janeiro state championship. Anti-doping officers who came to test players at the club training ground were largely ignored by Barbosa, who took his test hours after his teammates.

Barbosa’s lawyers argued his blood test at the time, which is considered a more effective test, proved he was clean, and added his unfriendly behavior toward the officers did not mean he tricked the test.

“Despite my respect for the court, I stress that I never tried to obstruct or fraud any test. I trust that I will be found not guilty in my appeal,” Barbosa said on his social media channels.

“Since the beginning of my career as a footballer I always followed the rules of the game and I never used prohibited substances. I have been a subject of dozens of tests, they all came negative, which shows my commitment with my club and with Brazilian fans.”

Flamengo said “there was no fraud, not even an attempted fraud."

“The club received the decision with surprise and will help the athlete in his representation at the Court for Arbitration of Sport,” it added in a statement.

Nicknamed Gabigol, the 27-year-old Barbosa is in the final year of his contract with Flamengo, which has given him national acclaim after failed stints at Inter Milan and Benfica.

The striker was part of Brazil's Olympic gold medal squad at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He left that year for Europe but returned to Santos in 2018, and became one of the most prolific scorers in Brazil.

He moved to Flamengo in 2019 and helped it win two Copa Libertadores and two Brazilian leagues. But he has been benched since former Brazil coach Tite took over at Flamengo last October.

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