The ‘honest mistake’ that landed Ajax star Andre Onana with a nine-month drug ban

Not so long ago, André Onana was one of the best goalkeeper prospects in the world.

The Ajax goalie was a huge part of the team’s success in the 2018-19 season when they almost advanced to the Champions League final.

Onana had everything that Ajax fans want in a goalkeeper. His days in Barcelona’s academy had granted him an uncanny ability to play the ball with his feet. With Ajax’s defence firmly positioned almost in midfield, Onana was essentially an outfield player for Erik ten Hag’s side.

However, Onana’s career took an unexpected turn for the worse not long after.

What happened to André Onana?

In February 2021, UEFA banned Onana from playing for 12 months. They argued that he had tested positive for Furosemide, a banned substance. Often used to treat fluid build-up, Furosemide is usually prescribed to people suffering from kidney disease or high blood pressure.

But all André Onana had when he took it was a headache.

In an article for The Players’ Tribune, André Onana has finally told his account of the whole story. A wistful sadness pervades his piece. It’s easy to see how much football means to Onana and how upset he still is by the ban.

His wife had been taking Furosemide, as she was soon due to give birth. Onana went to grab some Paracetamol for his headache but mistakenly took the Furosemide instead.

“I must’ve gone for a headache pill and got the boxes mixed up. I took the pill the doctor had prescribed Melanie. The boxes were basically identical.”

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UEFA accepted Onana’s story but granted him a one-year ban anyway. After Ajax appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the ban was reduced to nine months – still cruel punishment for a young football player with a lot to prove.

“Even after everything that came out — the statement from the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the rest — it’s a stain on my name. ‘André Onana banned for doping’ … how do you explain that s*** to your family? To your kids?”

“Well, it wasn’t easy. But listen, there is an explanation. So if you want to hear, take a seat.”

When is André Onana coming back?

Nine months is a long time, but Onana was absolutely buzzing when his ban was cut short.

It would mean that he’d be allowed to play at the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2022, which will take place in his native Cameroon.

“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. They can’t take the stain away, but they cleaned it a little.”

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Now, Onana has a chance to redeem himself and become a legend for his country.

“I want to represent my country. I want to win AFCON and become a legend for eternity. And I want to become the best goalie in the world.”

Where will Onana play next season?

Onana was initially banned from first-team training, so he maintained form by practicing in amateur pitches in Salou, Barcelona.

His training ban ended in September, but his return to Ajax wasn’t an easy one. With his contract talks stalled, the Cameroonian was effectively out of the first-team squad.

Onana wanted out, and he wasn’t willing to renew his contract. Ajax’s director of football and former legend Marc Overmars played it tough and duly placed the goalie in their under-23s squad.

“We’re not having any conversations with him at the moment,” Overmars said in September. “We tried, but it hasn’t worked out. So you move on. It wasn’t up to us.”

However, Onana recently returned to the first team after Maarten Stekelenburg suffered a season-ending hip injury. So far, he has started in a 1-2 Champions League win at Besiktas on November 24 and in a 4-0 cup win against BVV Barendrecht.

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It is still unclear where André Onana will play next season. Inter Milan are interested, but Onana has his eyes set on a return home to Barcelona.

Because Onana’s contract ends in June, teams can sign him on a free transfer this January. We’ll soon find out where he ends up.

Featured Image Credit: Getty