Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana has revealed the details of the 'stupid mistake' that cost him nine months of his career.
Onana was initially banned for 12 months after he was found to have ingested the banned substance furosemide. The goalkeeper pleaded his innocence and his explanation that he had mistakenly taken his partner's medication was accepted, but he was still banned for nine months for not controlling what he put in his body.
He resumed training in October and has been Ajax's backup goalkeeper this season, which is expected to be his final year at the club as he approaches the end of his contract.
Onana has previously lifted the lid on his mistake. Now, in an interview with The Players' Tribune, he discussed his shock at just how severe the punishment was.
"UEFA could see it was just human error, you know?" he said. "They investigated and I told them my story. The question they asked the most was, 'Why do you have this medicine in your house?'. It was easy to answer: 'Because of the little one. My partner is having a baby…These are her pills'.
"This was definitely not some crazy excuse I just made up. I didn’t invent anything. I wasn’t trying to cheat. All the evidence was there. This was just a stupid mistake.
"After everything, I assumed they would be like, 'O.K., these things happen. It’s a mistake. Be more careful next time'. To put it in football terms, I thought they would show me a yellow card. But nah, they went straight for the red. Twelve months ban. No football. Eredivisie? KNVB Cup? Europa League? Champions League? AFCON? Gone. Just like that. One year for a footballer? It’s like 10 years. It’s an eternity.
"I get it. The law is the law, right? You f*** up, you pay the price. And I paid. But sometimes you wonder, are they punishing you to teach you a lesson, or are they doing it just to hurt you?"
However, despite the obvious downside to the ban, Onana was adamant that he took nothing but positives from the situation.
"In a way, I needed this year to get that focus back," he confessed. "Listen, I’m not gonna get down on my knees and say thanks for the ban — f*** that — but it helped me to take a step back and see what’s really important. I trained like I’ve never trained before. Like a machine. Anyone who saw me then would not have thought, This is a guy who is suspended.
"In the summer, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban from 12 months to nine, I celebrated like I’d won the Champions League! They even put a line in their report that said there was no 'significant fault' on my part. That was something. They can’t take the stain away, but they cleaned it a little.
"But more than that, the reduction was a big victory for me because after everything I’d gone through, it meant that I could play at the Africa Cup of Nations in January…in Cameroon. That meant everything."