Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif — who were recalled from the Champions Trophy after testing positive for nandrolene — prove that cricket is not a low-risk sport when it comes to drugs. Many sports stars worldwide have been involved in doping scandals. Cricketers, though, seldom encountered such charges and cases like that of Shane Warne (who infamously tested positive for diuretics — and famously put the blame on his mother) were exceptions.
It’s natural that most cricketers involved in drug use turn out to be fast bowlers as they have the hardest jobs and sustain the most injuries. Players routinely stand in the hot sun for more than six hours at a stretch and pace bowlers have also to send down some 25 explosive overs. But that’s no excuse for any player to ignore rules and step outside the guidelines. Any cricketer worth his playing cap should be proud of having a clean sport that can be passed on to youngsters. In Shoaib’s and Asif’s case, the pity is all the more since there’s no scientific evidence that taking nandrolone would hasten recovery from injury — the suggested reason for their testing positive. The pacemen might have got away with it had Pakistan’s coach, Bob Woolmer, not demanded his squad be tested before the Champions Trophy. This points to the inadequacy of the ICC’s protocol of selecting matches at random and four players (two a side) within those matches for testing.
It’s time the ICC encouraged all national boards to streamline anti-doping policies to comply with World Anti-Doping Agency rules.