Mexico Rolls On in CONCACAF Gold Cup Despite Doping Scandal

You've got to give the Mexican National Team credit.

El Tri could have crumbled and allowed the doping scandal that forced their own federation to suspended five players, including two starters, to affect their play against Cuba on Thursday night.

Instead, the Mexicans kept their wits about them and rolled to a 5-0 victory in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Cubans are not exactly world beaters. They have dropped a pair of 5-0 Group A losses within five days and supposedly have problems of their own with reports of players possibly defecting. The news of defections seems to work like clockwork every time a Cuban soccer team performs in the United States. So far, nothing yet.

It took a while for Mexico to get going in Charlotte, N.C., but it rediscovered its finishing touch in the second half, scoring four times. Javier "Chicharito" Hernández and Giovani dos Santos each had a brace and Aldo de Nigris added one goal.

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Chicharito has outscored teams in this competition, with a tournament-high five goals as El Tri remained perfect behind two 5-0 wins and a 2-0-0 record.

What shape Mexico will be in to continue that imposing, unbeaten streak remains to be seen. CONCACAF on Friday is expected to rule on whether sanctions will be imposed and whether Mexico will be allowed to replace the five players who were suspended for supposedly eating contaminated meat during training in May.

By suspending these players, the Mexican Football Federation did the correct thing. If it was an accident, these players should be allowed to return to the competition. NADA, Germany's anti-doping agency, says that Mexico had issued warnings to athletes about eating meat in Mexico because it was tainted with clenbuterol (it is sometimes spelled chembuterol).

That drug has been known to increase muscle and speed in animals.

The question is: how do you police eating?

As for replacing those players, that's another matter. Two of the suspended men – goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and defender Francisco Javier Rodríguez – are starters and are high quality players. It will be difficult to replace them in body or in spirit.

In fact, you have to wonder what sort of shape – match fitness –  these players would be in because they probably were not working out at the highest level the past few weeks.

Then again, a warm body is better than none.

If there was one disappointment on Thursday night, it was Costa Rica's 1-1 draw with El Salvador in which El Tri rallied deep into stoppage time to earn a point. Oh, it was a dramatic finish, but it took the sheen off of Sunday's Group A finale at Soldier Field in Chicago.

It would have been more intriguing if both teams entered the match with perfect 2-0-0 records. Now, the Mexicans need only a tie to clinch the Group A title, the Costa Ricans a win. It would have been more thrilling if both teams needed wins.

This is turning into a memorable Gold Cup, though not necessarily for the right reasons.

There is the Mexican doping crisis.

There had been rumors that several Cuban players had defected on Thursday, but that turned out to be false.

And there is the ongoing soap opera of the FIFA presidential election bribery case fallout as the world's governing body on Thursday said that the suspension of former CONCACAF acting president Lisle Austin was now worldwide.

Austin said that his situation wasn't over yet. He is probably right.

What's next?

Who knows?

Your guess would be as good as anyone else’s.

Hopefully, the rest of the tournament will be about what transpires on the pitch, not off of it.

We have had more than enough headaches and controversies already and the competition is only midway through the group state.

Just give a lot of credit to Chicharito, dos Santos and company for keeping their sanity and not turning the Mexican headache into a bigger circus.

Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for three decades, is a frequent contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at