CA hails Pakistan action over drugs tests

Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia's cricket chief has hailed Pakistan's handling of a drugs scandal involving fast bowlers Shoaib Ahktar and Mohammad Asif.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said the positive drug tests were "disappointing news" but praised the Pakistan Cricket Board for its out-of-competition testing policy, prompt action and transparency.

"It's good to hear the Pakistanis have taken the approach they have and it shows they are taking the matter seriously," Sutherland said. "It's something no sport wants or needs."

Australia's legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne was banned for a year for using a diuretic ahead of the World Cup in South Africa in 2003.

Pakistan sent Akhtar and Asif home after they tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone while the team prepared to face Sri Lanka in their opening Champions Trophy match in Jaipur, India, on Tuesday.

In the latest controversy to engulf Pakistani cricket, the team's top new-ball pairing face bans of up to two years each for allegedly using the performance-enhancing drug.

The 31-year-old Akhtar, who was looking forward to a comeback after a long injury layoff, protested his innocence and said he was "gutted" to miss the tournament.

"I cannot say much at this time about what has happened but I just want to assure everyone that I am innocent of doing anything I shouldn't have," he said in his diary on the Bigstarcricket.com website.

"All I can say is that I have not knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs and would never cheat my team-mates or opponents in this way," he said.

Pakistan's action was also praised in the Australian media.

"Pakistan has acted bravely here," wrote Patrick Smith in The Australian. "It has called home in disgrace two suspected drug cheats whom it did not have to name or sanction.

"It acted bravely, too, when it was the first country to tackle match fixing with any real energy and purpose.

"Cricket is reeling. But Pakistan officials yesterday gave the game a foothold to recovery."

The steroid claims cap two months of controversy swirling around the Pakistan squad.

The chaos started in the fourth Test against England at the Oval in August, when captain Inzamam-ul Haq refused to take his team back on the field after it was accused of ball-tampering.

Inzamam was cleared of that charge but was still handed a four-match ban for bringing the game into disrepute.

His replacement, Younis Khan, earlier this month refused to lead the side for the Champions Trophy, saying he did not want to be a "dummy" captain.

Then-PCB chief Shaharyar Khan quit the next day because of the decision. His replacement, Nasim Ashraf, reinstated Younis as skipper.


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