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'Tainted duo could face 2-year suspension'

ICC issues a veiled threat to PCB to ensure that Shoaib and Asif are punished, writes Steve Bierley. Make 'em pay: Waugh | Did they smoke grass?

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 13:41 IST

Malcolm Speed, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) chief executive, on Monday issued a veiled threat to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to ensure that Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif are correctly punished if they are found guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Akhtar and Asif had tested positive for nandrolone, a test that was conducted by the PCB before this tournament. Speed is determined that cricket falls in line with other sports in the fight against drugs.

The ICC this year signed up to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code and he hinted that, if Akhtar and Asif are found guilty and Wada believes the punishment handed out by the PCB is too lenient, then the agency could step in and take action itself.

“Because the PCB conducted the tests, their drug tribunal will deal with it,” Speed said. “I understand the PCB has adopted the WADA code and the tribunal will take place under its protocol.

I don’t want to speculate about what the PCB might do, but if Wada is not happy it could go over the top. Wada made comments about Shane Warne’s one-year ban in 2003, but on that occasion they elected not to appeal. Players should be well aware of what is on the list.”

Akhtar and Asif must now await results of their B samples, but if they are positive too, Speed said the fast bowlers could face two-year suspensions.

“A two-year ban is the normal course but there are options for the player to prove no fault or no performance-enhancing effect. I can’t pre-empt the facts,” said Speed.

“Initially it is a PCB function. It has done the pre-tournament testing of its own volition. Nineteen players were tested and two were returned with the A sample positive.”

“Other sports have faced up to this problem and we need to get the full story before we go too far in commenting what it means for the game of cricket and the future, but subject to the B sample and a tribunal sitting and hearing the evidence, if the players have breached the code it is a disappointing day.

“Cricket is regarded as a low-risk sport in respect of drugs and doping, although that is not to say we don’t take it seriously.

Five of our members carry out regular testing. Cricket takes its place alongside other sports; in relation to doping and illegal substances we take a zero-tolerance position.”

Speed underlined that cricket has tested for drugs in competition since 2002, although the current Champions Trophy, is the first time that Wada has been directly involved.

Medical practitioners from the Gulf States and Yemen are in India to conduct the anti-doping programme for the tournament, which will be carried out randomly at seven matches with four players, two from each side, being tested. "WADA has approved that level of testing as being appropriate for cricket," said Speed.

First Published: Oct 19, 2006 12:20 IST