Sydney: Australian spin king Shane Warne was banned from cricket for 12 months on Saturday after being found guilty of taking a prohibited diuretic drug, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) said. Warne immediately announced he would appeal the ban, which fell far short of the possible two-year suspension he faced under the ACB's anti-doping policy.
Clearly shaken, Warne described the penalty as very harsh. "I am absolutely devastated and very upset at this decision to suspend me for 12 months and will appeal," Warne told reporters. "I feel I am a victim of the anti-doping hysteria. I want to repeat I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs and never will," he said, reading from a prepared statement and refusing to take questions. The punishment bars Warne from all levels of cricket, ending his role in the current World Cup in South Africa and upcoming series against the West Indies, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.
It is also likely to cost Warne his goal of overtaking West Indian Courtney Walsh as the most prolific wicket taker in Test history. Warne's legal team is believed to have argued his that case fell under an "exceptional circumstance" clause in the ACB's anti-doping policy, although the ACB said it had found no circumstances that warranted dismissing the charges. "The (anti-doping) committee found the charge proved and imposed on player Shane Keith Warne (a ban) for a period of 12 months to date from February 10, 2003," ACB anti-doping committee chairman Glen Williams said. Warne, 33, made a shock exit from the World Cup earlier this month after being told he had tested positive for drugs ahead of a match in Sydney in January.
He admitted taking a diuretic pill, which media reports said was given to him by his mother, who wanted her son to look good at a news conference prior to the team's departure for the World Cup last month. Seven witnesses are believed to have appeared at an eight-hour hearing on Friday, four for the prosecution and three for the defence. One of the witnesses at the hearing was understood to be Warne's mother Brigitte. Australian Olympic Committee chairman John Coates, a strong anti-drugs campaigner, expressed surprise that the ACB had reduced the penalty from two years to 12 months.
"Certainly under the Australian Olympic Committee anti-doping policy it would not be," he told Sky News. Australian chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said Warne's absence would "leave a big hole" in the team. Hohn said Warne's replacement in Australia's 15-man World Cup squad would be named by Sunday at the latest, with the most likely candidates believed to be Queensland off spinner Nathan Hauritz or New South Wales leg spinner Stuart MacGill. Hohn said he hoped Warne would return to international cricket but the final decision was in Warne's hands.
World Anti-Doping Agency board member David Howman said Warne must have been aware the pill he took contravened the rules. "I would be absolutely astonished if any sportsman playing at an elite level does not know the doping rules, particularly Australians who have been told the rules individually and been very vocal on the issue," he said. ABC radio commentator Tim Lane said Australian cricket would have been subject to international derision had Warne escaped punishment. "The whole Australian cricket community would have been wounded," he said. Warne must lodge his appeal within seven days. Copyright AFP 2001