‘Cannabinol is a degradation product of cannabis, which occurs in hashish and hemp. Ebi Smolarek has already launched an appeal, as the substance is also found in various foods and chocolate bars sold in health food shops, which he does eat,’ explains Swart.
Smolarek’s lawyer E. Vrijman will base his appeal on a slew of scientific articles published by some of the world’s most respected academic journals, which show that consumption of only a small quantity of food and chocolate bars containing hempseed or hempseed oil are sufficient to test positive in a drug test. ‘Smolarek does use such products,’ acknowledges Swart. ‘What’s more he eats them a lot.’
Passive smoking is another possible cause of the high concentration. ‘That’s the reason the UEFA works with the 15 ng/ml norm. UEFA factors in the presence of the substance in everyone’s body automatically. That’s why there is a permitted level. There is a difference of opinion within science on the correctness of this permitted level however. Some scientists argue for a higher permitted level, based on recent research.’
Smolarek doesn’t smoke himself. ‘Because when cannabis is referred to your first thought is: he has smoked a joint. But the lad considers it really filthy if he sits next to a smoker who’s flapping his arms about. As far as that’s concerned I’d stake my life on it for him.’
Legal in Holland, cannabis is not on the KNVB’s list of banned substances. ‘In the Netherlands you can buy this stuff everywhere,’ explains Swart. ‘The irritating thing for Smolarek is that he is the one who is sending out a signal to all professional footballers, that health products and even passive smoking are dangerous.’
Another possibility that Swart refuses to rule out is that Smolarek was given the substance without his knowledge in a disco. ‘That’s a personal fear of mine, because cannabis seems to be everywhere, in powder, pill or oil form. So there only has to be one idiot in a packed disco to put something in his glass. In today’s society that is the dread of every parent.’
For Ebi Smolarek the appeal is primarily a way to reclaim his reputation. ‘At this time we cannot say whether UEFA will decide to impose any punishment. If it were to be a moderate one, as we expect, because the higher concentration is minimal, then he will still feel that he has been deemed guilty. He doesn’t want that stigma,’ says Swart. ‘Even if UEFA only give him a warning, he wants it recorded that he hasn’t smoked anything. The whole affair has hit him to hard and too emotionally for that. One shouldn’t forget that the boy is a real sportsman. He still lives with his parents. He has a father who keeps an eye on him. Furthermore, Ebi is an intelligent guy. But he is only 21 and you cannot put him on a chain.’