The drug scandal has hit yet another spot. After the perpetual doping cloud hovering over cycling and a whole gamut of other athletic and sporting events, it is now cricket’s turn to face this most scandalous of controversies. Needless to say, the failed drug test of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif is the biggest crisis the sport has faced after the match fixing scandals in the early part of the millennium.
To start off, the way the ICC has dealt with the whole issue is baffling. During the last world cup in 2003, Shane Warne had the dubious distinction of being the first player to be caught of doping. However the ICC gave him only a token punishment of just 1 year. It was in no way the right signal to send to would be offenders. The punishment was too lenient to be a deterrent to others.
But what was even most baffling is the claim by the ICC that drug test would be conducted only for its own premier events; like the world cup and the Champions Trophy. More than anything, this showed how ineffectual the ICC is in running the game. Is the ICC saying that a player is free to take drugs for other tournaments and series, but for some haloed reason the World Cup and such events need to be treated with utmost reverence? Or are they still naïve enough to believe that cricket is still a gentleman’s game and that they lose their honesty only during the World Cup and such event?
Coming back to the Akhtar and Asif saga, these two players were first found to be having high quantities of Nandrolone in their blood in an internal drug test conducted just prior to the Champions Trophy in India. They were subsequently pulled out of the Champions Trophy and were promptly suspended for two years. However they were let off by an appellate tribunal. The duo then went on to play for Pakistan in their recent tour of South Africa.
But there was no doubt that the shadow of doubt regarding their drug offence still persisted and it was no secret that they would be targeted for another round of testing at the World Cup. Probably realizing this, the PCB allegedly sent both these players to England in a futile attempt to flush the traces of Nandrolone from their body. They were even missing from the mandatory drug tests that all their players were subjected to. The excuse given was that the duo was undergoing treatment for their respective injuries.
The entire episode smelt strongly of a massive cover up. If Akhtar and Asif were genuinely injured, the secrecy and intrigue surrounding it defied logic. Both left for treatment on the same plane and went to the same country. But then the place or the kind of treatment they underwent is shrouded in mystery.
The PCB needs to explain to its stake holders the very purpose of their drug tests. Is it for finding drug offenders and punishing them suitably? Or is it for protecting their own players from getting a life ban? The PCB has put at risk its own credibility by choosing to take the later option. They need to make up their minds and convince the rest of the world that Akhtar and Asif were indeed injured and hence were dropped. Otherwise they should come out into the open and take proper action against the duo, thereby admitting to their guilt. But right now the PCB has opted for the stupidest and easiest option. They are trying to dupe the whole world. Only problem is that the world is not as full of fools as they thought