Ivory Coast have suffered a huge blow as they prepare for their Africa Cup of Nations Group E opener against Equatorial Guinea after Fifa banned goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo.
The Ivorian Football Federation confirmed on Tuesday they had been notified by Fifa that the 33-year-old, who currently turns out for Ethiopia Premier League side Wolkite City FC, will not be eligible to play in the 33rd edition of the tournament after he allegedly violated doping rules.
“The temporary suspension of Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo confirmed by Fifa,” the federation said in a statement on their social media pages.
According to BBC Sport Africa, Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle has already been notified by Fifa that Gbohouo, who was the first choice for the Elephants at the 2019 edition in Egypt, had tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication that the World Anti-Doping Agency categorises as a stimulant.
Beaumelle further revealed that Gbohouo, who previously turned out for DR Congo giants Tout Puissant Mazembe, has already appealed against the ruling.
“We had hope of getting a favourable response from Fifa but yesterday [Tuesday] I learned that they were upholding their decision,” Beaumelle said as quoted by BBC Sport Africa.
“It’s been really difficult for the player. He’s been here since January 5 not knowing if he’ll be able to play. He's not eating anymore, he's lost weight, he’s not sleeping.
“I hope he stays with us because I think he has an important role to play around the team if he can't be in the team. He's a great keeper and an excellent person. It’s really hard for him and his family and we are all supporting him because his career isn't finished.”
Gbohouo made his debut for Ivory Coast on July 6, 2013, in a 4-1 defeat against Nigeria at the 2014 African Nations Championship qualifiers and he was also part of the squad at the 2014 Fifa World Cup but did not make an appearance.
He was Ivory Coast’s starting goalkeeper at the 2015 Afcon as they went all the way to the final, but a thigh injury sustained in the semi-final against DR Congo saw him miss out on the final match in favour of the veteran Boubacar Barry.
He was still named the tournament's best goalkeeper, and since Barry's retirement, Gbohouo has been the Elephants' undisputed number one.
After facing Equatorial Guinea, the Elephants will confront Sierra Leone on January 16 before they wind up their group phase matches with a fixture against defending champions Algeria on January 20.