"There should be a proper investigation to prove the authenticity of the case, but, either way, this is most damaging and can potentially blow up Pakistan's chances in coming events like the World Cup 2007," legendary all-rounder Imran Khan told AFP on Tuesday.
The tests conducted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were mistimed and the results should have come before the naming of the squad for the Champions Trophy tournament in India, added Khan, now a member of Pakistan's parliament.
"The results of the tests should have been there before the announcement of the team for India and instead it has come on the eve of Pakistan's first match, which is going to hurt the team," said the former captain.
Pakistan open their Champions Trophy campaign against Sri Lanka in Jaipur on Tuesday, a day after Akhtar and Asif were sent home following their positive tests for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone.
Khan said Akhtar and Asif were two of Pakistan's biggest assets and must be given a full chance to prove their innocence.
"It has to be clarified whether Akhtar and Asif took the substances inadvertently or they knew about them," said Khan, who denied knowing any fast bowler using performance enhancing drugs in his day.
Khan's former team-mate Javed Miandad said he was stunned by the drugs scandal.
"I am shocked to hear about this, this is a huge blow to Pakistan cricket," said master batsman Miandad, who played in 124 Tests, a record for Pakistan.
Miandad blamed a lack of discipline for the doping row.
"I have been saying that all the ills of Pakistan cricket are due to lack of discipline and this shows we have not recovered from the first-ever forfeit Test jolt, the ball-tampering allegations and the captaincy row," said Miandad.
Pakistan cricket has been in turmoil since August's Oval Test against England, when Inzamam-ul-Haq refused to take the field after his team was accused of ball tampering.
The match was awarded to England on forfeit, the first in Test cricket's 129-year history. Inzamam was cleared of tampering charges but was handed a four-match ban for bringing cricket into disrepute.
Inzamam's replacement, Younis Khan, initially declined to lead the team but was reinstated by the newly inducted PCB chairman, Nasim Ashraf, within 48 hours of previous board chief Shaharyar Khan resigning.
Miandad said Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer and the team's doctors should also be investigated.
"Woolmer has a battery of assistants, there are so many doctors in the PCB panel, they should also be investigated because players don't know what medicines they are taking," said Miandad.
Another former player, fast bowler and so-called "Sultan of Swing" Sarfraz Nawaz, agreed with Miandad.
"These tests were initiated by the previous board led by Shaharyar Khan, so he and all other officials should also be taken to task," said Nawaz, who played 55 Tests for Pakistan.
"If Australia can ban Shane Warne then nobody is above the game and its rules, but both Asif and Akhtar should be given a full chance to clarify their position," said Nawaz.
Australia's legendary leg-spinner Warne was banned for one year for using a diuretic during the World Cup in South Africa in 2003.