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English cricketer gets 15 month-ban for cocaine use

Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London:English cricketer Graham Wagg was handed a 15-month suspension by the ECB after admitting cocaine use and Warwickshire reacted by terminating his contract.

The 21-year-old returned from India last winter having impressed on England A's tour and was tipped by many critics to be the next youngster set to establish his credentials for a senior international call-up.

But a frustrating season disrupted by a back injury, which prevented him making a single championship appearance as Warwickshire romped to the title, ended when he tested positive for cocaine use following the final Totesport League match of the summer against Gloucestershire on September 4.

He admitted the offence at a preliminary hearing of the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) discipline standing committee at Lord's at the end of that month, a decision which helped his cause on Monday when they reconvened at Lord's and stopped short of imposing the maximum penalty of a two-year ban for this type of offence.

Wagg's inexperience at 21, his immediate regret and honesty and his previously good record were taken into account when chairman Gerard Elias QC instead imposed a 15-month ban which will last until January 1, 2006.

He immediately issued a statement which thanked "the ECB disciplinary panel for their leniency," and added that he was "conscious that he has let himself, his county and the game of cricket down.

"He accepts his punishment with humility and will do his very best to return to cricket on January 1, 2006 a better and stronger cricketer and person."

For Wagg to do that he will first have to persuade a new county to take a chance on him after Warwickshire responded to the decision by announcing their plans to sack him as soon as it was legally possible.

A statement from Edgbaston revealed: "Warwickshire County Cricket Club fully supports the action taken by the ECB. It does not condone the use of illegal drugs in any circumstances, and continues to take a very firm stance in such cases.

"The club is very disappointed that one of its players has tested positive for a banned substance, but is pleased to note that he has shown remorse and pleaded guilty to this serious offence.

"In the circumstances, the club will be terminating Graham's contract as soon as is legally practicable. However, it will provide the best possible advice, support and encouragement to Graham during his rehabilitation period."

Wagg can at least take encouragement from Ed Giddins' similar experience after he also tested positive for cocaine in 1996 and was given an 18-month ban and also sacked by Sussex immediately.

His career was rescued by Warwickshire and Giddins performed impressively enough to earn four England Test caps under Nasser Hussain's captaincy before retiring last year.

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