Lillee backs Warne to bounce back from drug controversy

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2003, 0:18 [IST]
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London: Australian legend Dennis Lillee has backed Shane Warne to bounce back from the drug controversy that has forced him out of the World Cup and go on to re-write the record books.

Writing in Britain's 'Daily Mirror', Lillee said he believed Warne would be able to salvage his career even if he receives the maximum two-year ban for taking a banned diuretic. "If he was to receive the harshest penalty this would make him 35 years of age on his return - still plenty of time for a hungry wolf to make a concerted attack on his other goal - 500 Test wickets. "A more realistic total would be 600 or 700 if he does reach his other goal of playing until he's 40." Warne is currently nine wickets short of becoming the first spinner in history to take 500 Test wickets. And Lillee said it was in the Test arena that Australia would miss Warne the most.

"This was so evident when Warne was unavailable through a shoulder injury for the final test of the recent Ashes series. Without him England was able to turn the tide. "Even with the none-too-shabby Stuart MacGill, the Aussies didn't look the menacing force they always do with Warney weaving his magic." Lillee said he hoped Australian cricket authorities would recognise that Warne had not infringed the spirit of anti- doping rules. "I know Warney is no angel, and that controversy has not been far away over the years, but there is no way in the world he is a drug cheat. He tested positive for a diuretic, which he says was used as a weight- reducing tool. "He claims diuretics have helped transform his often-pudgy frame into the svelte, muscular body we've seen in recent times, one designed to ensure a publicly-stated wish to play his much-loved sport to the ripe old cricketing age of 40.

"It just makes no sense to me that a guy who has worked his butt off in preparation for this goal would knowingly sacrifice it all. There must be some misunderstanding." Under Australian Cricket Board (ACB) rules, Warne's offence will be judged to fall under one of two categories depending on what his motives are deemed to have been. The lesser charge carries a maximum suspension of three months while the more serious one could result in a ban of up to two years. The spinner was due back in Australia late on Wednesday.

AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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