One of Algeria's Africa Cup of Nations heroes has risen like a phoenix from the ashes after he was banned from football for two years following a positive cocaine test, and is now one of the superstars at this year's tournament.
Algeria's Mohamed Youcef Belaili, who scored Algeria's winner when they met fellow Afcon 2019 finalists Senegal in the group stages, tested positive for cocaine after a Caf Champions League match on 7 August 2015 and received a two-year ban.
According to Marca, he alleged that the tobacco of a shisha pipe he smoked was mixed with the drug, but after testing positive again his ban was extended to four years.
He played no game between 19 September 2015 and 28 October 2017, and would still have been sidelined had the ban not been reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His sanction was decreased to two years, and he returned to playing club football late in 2017.
Things have gone in favour of the Esperance forward since – he was part of the team that won the Tunisian league title as well as the Caf Champions League twice since returning from his drug ban, with the 2019 final of that competition still being contested and currently scheduled for a replay after the Afcon.
His fine performances at club level also saw him return to the national team, with Belaili making his first Algeria appearance after the ban in November 2018.
He has been a starter in all but one of Algeria's games at Afcon 2019 so far, scoring twice and also converting the important fifth penalty in their shootout win over Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.
The 27-year-old is expected to start for the Desert Foxes in the final against Senegal on Friday night – a replay of their group stage encounter – and could crown his incredible story with the biggest trophy in African football.
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