Pakistan were landed a crippling blow on Monday when their lethal new-ball pair of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif returned home from India after testing positive for banned anabolic steroid nandrolone.
A second test on sample ‘B’ carried out in Malaysia also turned out to be positive, leaving the players facing an international ban of up to two years.
Shocked by this latest incident that will add fuel to Pakistan’s ongoing cricket turmoil, the authorities said they would name a tribunal to decide the fate of the pacers. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) also announced that talented all-rounder Yasir Arafat and young spinner Abdul Rehman would be flown to India where Pakistan would start their title campaign in the ICC Champions Trophy in Jaipur today.
Chairman PCB Dr Nasim Ashraf said it was a huge setback for Pakistan but added that instead of trying to cover up the issue, the Board has decided to suspend the players. “We suspended the two players after it was confirmed that they have tested positive for a performance enhancing drug,” Ashraf said.
He agreed the duo’s absence from the ICC Champions Trophy would dampen Pakistan’s chances in the tournament but made it clear that drug abuse cannot be tolerated. “We have done the right thing by suspending these players,” he said. “Further action against them would be decided according to international guidelines.”
Shoaib and Asif, counted among Pakistan’s match-winning players, were among 19 leading national cricketers tested late last month by the PCB. The samples were sent to a World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) laboratory in Malaysia where Shoaib and Asif tested positive for nandrolone.
Pakistan acted voluntarily by carrying out its own tests before sending their squad to India. Because Shoaib and Asif have been caught by their own board, the ICC has made it clear that the PCB would take a decision on the players’ punishment. “We will appoint a tribunal that would hear out the players before taking a decision,” said Ashraf.
Ashraf refrained from giving a timeframe over the case but another PCB official said it could take up to two weeks to reach a final verdict. “The tribunal would go through every aspect of the issue before deciding the length of the ban for the two players,” the PCB Director Operations Salim Altaf told this correspondent.
According to the ICC rules, drug abuse carries a sentence of two years. Pakistan are among five cricket playing countries along with Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand who have begun to carry out dope tests internally. The move to have dope tests in Pakistan was instigated recently on the advice of their English coach Bob Woolmer.
Even though drug abuse is rare in the world of cricket, the sport’s top authorities are slowly getting stricter The ICC has said it is carrying out random tests during the ongoing Champions Trophy in India.
The suspension of the Pakistan bowlers is the most sensational doping scandal to hit the cricket world after the one-year ban handed to Australian spin star Shane Warne in 2003. The leg-spinner was banned by Australia after failing an internal dope test.
For Pakistan, the incident is another twist in the current crisis that began with The Oval Test fiasco in August. Pakistan, accused of ball tampering in the match by Australian umpire Darrell, staged a dressing room sit in as a mark of protest against the decision only to see the umpires forfeiting the Test and awarding it to England.
Pakistan were later cleared of ball-tampering charges by the ICC but their regular skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq was banned for four matches for bringing the game into disrepute. His deputy Younis Khan, chosen to lead Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, refused to be the team’s ‘dummy captain’, a move that forced former PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan to resign earlier this month. Younis, who was replaced by Mohammad Yousuf following his outburst, was later reinstated as captain by Nasim Ashraf.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2006 and is filed under General.
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