Peru captain Paolo Guerrero has won a last-ditch appeal to play at the World Cup despite being suspended after testing positive for traces of cocaine, a Swiss federal tribunal announced Thursday.
Guerrero appealed to the tribunal following a recent ruling by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that saw him suspended for 14 months.
The tribunal, Switzerland's highest court, effectively "suspended" the CAS ban and said: "Guerrero can now participate at the next World Cup."
The decision was warmly welcomed by the Peruvian football federation (FPF), which had given Guerrero support in recent months in a bid to get him to Russia for their first World Cup appearance in 36 years.
"It's a great joy, not only for the federation but for the whole of Peru," the FPF said in a statement.
The FPF had launched Guerrero's last-ditch appeal Wednesday "with the hope of seeing Paolo at the World Cup, that reflects the feeling of the FPF and the whole country," according to its president Edwin Oviedo in a statement released in Lima.
The Swiss federal tribunal is the only body with powers to overturn a decision by the CAS. As well as allowing Guerrero to participate in the June 14-July 15 showpiece, it has also given the player hope of seeing his initial 14-month suspension reduced or annulled as it ruled the CAS decision "unjustified".
"As a result, Paolo Guerrero will be able to participate in the next World Cup."
The federal tribunal is expected to examine the case in fuller detail following the World Cup.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said in a statement: "The World Anti-Doping Agency notes the Swiss Federal Tribunal?s (SFT) decision to grant a stay to Peruvian football player Paolo Guerrero pending receipt of the full motivation of the CAS decision that increases his suspension from six to 14 months and against which he is appealing to the Swiss Federal Court.
"WADA was always content to wait for the full reasoned decision from CAS before the player was suspended (as noted in today's SFT decision) and is satisfied that due process is being followed. WADA will therefore not object."
- Traces of cocaine -
It brings an end to a saga which began when Guerrero attempted to clear his name.
Guerrero, 34, tested positive for traces of cocaine after a World Cup qualifier between Peru and Argentina on October 5.
Initially banned for a year, this was later reduced to six months on appeal last December.
That ban ended on May 3, making Guerrero eligible to play at the June 14-July 15 World Cup in Russia.
But instead of accepting the ruling, Guerrero appealed to CAS in a bid to clear his name. Sport's top arbitration court responded by increasing the reduced six-month ban to 14 months.
That effectively ruled him out of action until January 2019, and Guerrero was suspended by his Brazilian club, Flamengo.
The ruling prompted an outpouring of support from his native Peru, where the president Martin Vizcarra led calls for clemency.
Guerrero made a heartfelt appeal to FIFA and its chief Gianni Infantino, which was powerless against the usually unchallenged arbitration of the CAS.
"Gianni Infantino expressed his deep understanding of Guerrero?s disappointment in not being able to join the Peruvian squad at the 2018 FIFA World Cup," said a short FIFA statement last week.
"However, the FIFA President also stressed the fact that the sanction had been imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, after an appeal lodged against a decision of an independent FIFA judicial body."
Guerrero is now free to play for Peru in their first World Cup finals since Spain 1982. They are in Group C alongside France, Denmark and Australia.
After months of uncertainty following a positive doping test, Peru captain Paolo Guerrero has been given the all clear to play at the World Cup, his country's first for 36 years