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Mario Vuskovic was banned for two years by the German soccer federation (DFB) on Thursday after the Hamburg SV defender tested positive for EPO last year.

The 21-year-old who is a regular with Croatia international youth teams was initially suspended back in November when he was banned pending the investigation results.

EPO is prohibited in sports as it enhances the blood's oxygen-carrying capacities which has made it popular in endurance sports such as cycling and running.

The DFB said that Vuskovic's samples had been thoroughly analyzed to rule out the possibility of a false positive result.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) normally issues a four-year ban for such offences but a two-year punishment was deemed more appropriate  given that there was no evidence to suggest structured doping.

Tribunal chair Stephan Oberholz also added that a lengthier ban would have significantly damaged Vuskovic's soccer career which is still "in the development process."

The two-year ban has been backdated to start on Nov. 15 and Vuskovic does have the right to appeal, but WADA and Germany's anti-doping agency can seek stricter measures.

Vuskovic scored twice in 16 games with Hamburg at the start of this season before his suspension and HSV are pushing to return to the Bundesliga for the first time since their 2018 relegation.