As the FIFA 2018 World Cup begins an interesting link between a Peruvian and a volcano has been reported on by the BBC.
Readers of this blog may remember my trip to Mexico and South America in 2014. On the South American leg my brother, Derek, and I started off in Bolivia and we then made our way into northern Chile. A massive strato-volcano called Llullullaico stands on the Chilean/Argentinian border. In fact it is the seventh highest mountain in South America.
This was one of our objectives. One of the reasons I had wanted to climb Llullullaico was that, on the summit, are the remains of Inca buildings. Unfortunately I didn’t make it. A high altitude cough put paid to that. You can read all about that here and here.
Anyway, the Peruvian involved is Paolo Guerrero. Indeed he had been the captain of the Peruvian national team and a general national hero. But he became unstuck because at a doping test he tested positive for cocaine. Or more accurately, the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine. The result was a 12 month ban. That meant that he would miss the World Cup.
His claim was that the adverse test must have been the result of a mix up with tea he was given. “Tea?” I hear you say. Well coca tea is common in South America. Indeed chewing on raw coca leaves is also common (and legal) in many parts of South America. I have to admit to having chomped on them.
Basically, you stuff leaves into your mouth and chew them into a paste-like texture and lodge the resulting ball between your teeth and cheek when not chewing. This provides (supposedly) a mild stimulant and assistance in coping with the effects of altitude. I must say that, for me, it did not seem to have any effect other than to make my mouth dry. I soon gave up on its use. It also had no effect on my cough but presumably I would have failed any drugs test taken by me at the time.
So what does this all have to do with Llullaillaco?
Well you will have to read the BBC report which can be found here. And if Peru win the World Cup, you will now know why.