Saido Berahino says drugs ban was down to spiked drink
Stoke City striker explains why he failed a dope test earlier this season and how he grew to 'hate' West Brom
Stoke City striker Saido Berahino has claimed a spiked drink led to his eight-week drugs ban earlier in the season.
The 23-year-old was slapped with the suspension by the Football Association some time between September and January, when he was still at West Bromwich Albion, although details of the case have always been sketchy.
At the time it was said he suffering from fitness problems and a bout of depression, and it was only in February, shortly after he moved to Stoke in a £12m deal, that it emerged there was more to his absence than that.
When questioned by journalists after the player's transfer West Brom manager Tony Pulis confirmed that Berahino had served a ban but refused to elaborate on the circumstances, although it was assumed to be for recreational drugs.
Now, in an interview with BBC Sports's Football Focus, he's revealed that his drink was spiked when he was in a nightclub. "To be banned for something you really haven't done is hard to take," said Berahino, who added that that level of drugs found in his body was "really low".
"You go on a night out, you don't know who you are around and there are people who are out to get you. Of course, I was in a nightclub, so I hold my hand up for being irresponsible. From then on it all crashed down. To this day, I still cannot understand who would want to do that to me."
Berahino joined WBA as an 11-year-old and made a name for himself in the 2014-15 season by scoring 20 goals in 45 games, form that brought an offer from Spurs in the summer of 2015. The Baggies wouldn't sell, however, much to Berahino's frustration and his relationship with the club started to deteriorate to the extent that he grew to "hate the place".
"I was depressed," he said. "Every morning I walked in the training ground I didn't want to be there... Waking up in the morning, playing football and having a smile on your face - not doing that was the hardest thing for me."
Saido Berahino served eight-week ban after drugs test
Player tested positive while at West Brom, confirms old boss Tony Pulis and Stoke City's Mark Hughes
Stoke City have confirmed that striker Saido Berahino served a ban earlier this season after failing a drugs test.
The former West Brom star joined the Potters in a £12m deal last month, "despite [Stoke] knowing the controversial England Under-21 striker tested positive for a recreational drug in an out-of-competition test and was suspended for eight weeks", reports the Daily Mail.
Manager Mark Hughes confirmed the club had been "aware" of the ban: "We did our due diligence as with all players, but it didn't change our thinking of what we wanted to do," he said.
He added: "You'd probably have to refer this back to West Brom. We're not in a position to give much more detail."
However, West Brom boss Tony Pulis, while confirming the ban, was unwilling to go into detail and said it was up to Berahino's new club to deal with the fall out.
He said: "It was a personal matter and we're under strict obligations not to release any of that information. That's an FA directive."
According to the Mail, Berahino argued there were "extenuating circumstances around the positive test", but was still hit with an eight week ban. His last senior game for West Brom was in September.
"A positive test for a recreational drug out of competition is not regarded as a breach of the World Anti-Doping Agency Code," says the paper. "But the FA doping regulations go further than WADA in testing for recreational drugs like cocaine and cannabis out of competition and it does normally lead to the player being suspended.
"The FA consider it worthy of punishment out of fear for a player's health and the damage it could do to the image of the English game."
The news brings "further turbulence" to Berahino's "troubled career", says the Daily Telegraph. In 2015, he said he would never play again for West Brom after a proposed move to Spurs fell through while last month, Pulis warned that the promising striker, who has had problems with his weight and fitness, needed "to get his act together".
By coincidence, Stoke face West Brom this weekend.