Eintracht Frankfurt defender Martin Hinteregger was treated with a needle during his team's Bundesliga opener on Sunday. Now, Germany's National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) is investigating the incident.
Martin Hinteregger is a popular figure in Frankfurt and the Austrian defender did his reputation no harm when he put Eintracht Frankfurt ahead against Hoffenheim after just 36 seconds on Sunday.
There were further cheers in the second half when the Austrian defender flew into a typically full-blooded challenge against Ishak Belfodil, although he completely missed the ball and suffered cramp in his calf in the process.
The 26-year-old remained on the floor and indicated that he needed to be substituted, but eventually played on after being treated by Frankfurt's medical staff – treatment which included the use of a needle and the consumption of a wine-gum type tablet and which has now attracted the attention of Germany's National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
"NADA is aware of the incident and is investigating the situation," said NADA chairman Lars Mortsiefer, confirming a report in national broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung and adding that the agency is in contact with the German Football Association (DFB) and Eintracht Frankfurt.
After the match, in which Hinteregger's early goal proved to be the winner, the defender himself admitted that he had "received a needle" while footage also showed a member of the medical staff handing him a pill which he then took, right in front of head coach Adi Hütter.
Club deny allegations
Eintracht Frankfurt however have vehemently denied that the player was given any illegal or banned substances which would have contravened strict anti-doping laws.
"An issue is being blown up out of nothing," a club spokesperson told news agency SID. "Martin Hinteregger was treated with acupuncture to ease the cramp."
The spokesperson then confirmed that Hinteregger had received carbohydrates and magnesium, "which is completely normal in this sort of case."
It's not the first time that an Eintracht Frankfurt player has come to the attention of anti-doping authorities. In 2016, Marco Russ was found to have traces of the banned substance choriongonadotropin which, it was later proven, had been produced by the body itself as a result of iillness.
In the same year, teammate Änis Ben-Hatira posted a photograph online in which a bottle of lipotalon, a medicine which contains the banned substance dexamethason, could be seen in the background. NADA carried out a doping test which came back negative.
Shortly after the incident, coach Niko Kovac – now in charge of Bayern Munich – told tabloid BILD: "You can't play football without painkillers."
Unless NADA find otherwise, Martin Hinteregger seemingly can - although it wouldn't be the first time that the Austrian has been found to have consumed mind-altering substances.
Just this summer, before making his Frankfurt loan deal permanent, Hinteregger attended a training camp with parent club Augsburg in the Tirolean spa town of Bad Häring, during which he was filmed stumbling through the village, visibly drunk, having attended a local festival.
But his Austrian escapades have done little to alter his standing in Frankfurt, where fans calling themselves the "Hinti Army" have accorded him cult status, producing t-shirts and stickers and even recording a song especially for him. They have even forgiven him for his missed penalty in last season's dramatic Europa League semifinal defeat to Chelsea.
Whatever NADA find, Martin Hinteregger seems destined to remain a firm Frankfurt fan-favorite.