Professional footballers visit questionable Brazilian doctor

Doping Top Secret

Professional footballers visit questionable Brazilian doctor

Von Hajo Seppelt, Florian Riesewieck, Edmund Willison und Sebastian Münster

Investigations carried out by ARD journalists reveal that professional footballers in Brazil have repeatedly visited the clinic of a Brazilian doctor, suspected of helping athletes dope. At his clinic, he prescribed illegal performance-enhancing substances to undercover ARD reporters and referred them to doping dealers.

ARD sent a decoy, posing as an ambitious athlete, to visit the São Paulo clinic run by Dr. Mohamad Barakat. Already at the first appointment, the dubious doctor prescribed various medications he referred to as dietary supplements.

But an analysis carried out by a doping control laboratory in Cologne, Germany, which is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), confirmed the supplements contained two substances prohibited for use by professional athletes: anastrozole - a substance used to lower estrogen levels in breast cancer patients - and cortisol - an anti-inflammatory.

Celebrity doctor refers decoy to doping dealer

Moreover, Barakat put the reporter in touch with a doping dealer, from whom he was able to buy steroids, all arranged over the phone. Nandrolone, testosterone, growth hormone, oxandrolone and turinabol, among others. All of them dangerous, age-old doping substances. Apparently regular business for this doctor: "Hormones are the elixir of life. You'll take off. You'll feel much better", he tells our undercover athlete.

Dr. Mohamad Barakat is quite the star in Brazil: He has close to a million followers on Instagram. He has posted photos alongside the world famous DJ David Guetta and former formula 1 driver Rubens Barrichello. And pictured in his clinic some of the Brazilian national team´s former heroes: the 2007 Ballon d´Or winner Kaká, 2002 World Cup winner Rivaldo and Nilmar. Whether or not he treated these stars remains unknown.

Paolo Guerrero apparently patient in dubious clinic

Former Bayern Munich player and Peru World Cup captain Paolo Guerrero was apparently a patient of Dr. Mohamad Barakat. The doctor posted pictures of the pair on social media in 2013, after an alleged treatment, saying that he would have the injured Guerrero "flying over the pitch" again soon. Guerrero is currently banned for doping, but was controversially allowed to compete in the World Cup with Peru after his suspension was provisionally lifted.

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Mr. Barakat did not respond to ARD's inquiries concerning the matter in question. The ARD editorial team made several attempts to reach Guerrero. Neither the player himself nor his management nor the Peruvian Football Association responded.

Steroids for Breakfast

"This is stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. You have to take it three times a day. For breakfast, lunch and dinner", tells the doctor. Instructions to a patient he had only just met. The print reporter filmed the entire encounter with a hidden camera and later shared the footage with the ARD investigative team.

These kinds of practices brought Mohamad Barakat to the attention of São Paulo's medical council. A disciplinary proceeding was initiated against the doctor, but the investigations were never concluded. To this day, Dr. Barakat has not been penalised. Responding to ARD's inquiries, the medical council explained that the investigation is still ongoing. According to the regulatory body, it's not unusual for these kinds of proceedings to last up to five years.

These findings call to mind a similar case exposed by ARD reporters in 2017. At the time, ARD journalists revealed the practices of the physician Júlio César Alves, who had publicly boasted about doping members of the Brazilian national football team. Alves, too, prescribed ARD’s undercover reporters illegal doping substances.

Already at the time of last year's research, Alves was being investigated by the Brazilian authorities. However, he is still treating patients today. The ARD team had little problem booking an appointment at his clinic. It remains unclear why he is still allowed to practice. Inquiries about the case with the public prosecutor's office yielded no response. According to official statements, the investigation is being continued by another judicial body. Further queries throw into doubt whether Alves will ever be punished for his wrongdoing.

Brazil: World Champion of Doping cases in Football

The practices of these questionable doctors fit with with the latest statistics published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA): In no other country are there more doping cases in football than in Brazil. Seventeen official cases in a single year. A regrettable record for Brazil who lead the way in this bracket ahead of Italy, Iran and Malta.

The national team is not immune to such doping cases. One of the players on the current World Cup squad recently served his own doping ban. In 2015, midfielder Fred tested positive for the banned drug hydrochlorothiazide.

This substance, a diuretic that aids water loss, keeps appearing in doping tests. Diuretics are prohibited, because they can mask the use of anabolic steroids by flushing out the substances from the body more quickly. The sanctions imposed on athletes who test positive for diuretics is significantly less than for those found using steroids.

Brazil's Favourite Excuse

In Brazil, one doping defense beats them all: the legend of contaminated supplements, sourced from the so-called "farmácias de manipulação". A type of pharmacy unknown to Europe. Supplements are individually prepared on-site for every patient.

According to Luis Hortá, a Portuguese doctor who helped build the Brazilian Anti-Doping Agency, the excuse is being adopted more and more by athletes who have failed doping tests. They argue to have unknowingly ingested banned substances by way of contaminated supplements.

Hortá criticizes that the athletes’ defense strategy and even their lawyers are always the same. He also considers the recurring argument extremely unlikely to be true. "It's impossible for this to happen so often", Hortá says.

Dangerous substances, mild sanctions, little to no clarification: one can't help but be left with the impression that the fight against doping in the land of football is not being taken very seriously.

"Doping Top Secret: Brazil's Twelfth Man. Deceit in the Land of Football." A film by Hajo Seppelt, Florian Riesewieck and Edmund Willison.

Stand: 02.07.2018, 11:47