Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Drug Row Stars out of World Cup as Tough Test Regime Is Unveiled

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Drug Row Stars out of World Cup as Tough Test Regime Is Unveiled

Article excerpt


PAKISTAN pace bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were today ruled out of the World Cup due to injury, only 48 hours after all-rounder Abdul Razzaq was dropped from the squad following a blow to the knee during net practice.

Shoaib has been unable to recover from the knee injury that led him to being sent home from South Africa last month and Asif has been hampered by an elbow problem since that same tour.

Yasir Arafat and Mohammad Sami have been called up as their replacements for the tournament, which begins in the West Indies on 13 March. Pakistan play the hosts in the opening match.

"The doctors have told us they require at least another three weeks to make a complete recovery from their injuries. We couldn't wait for that long," chief selector Wasim Bari said.

But sources within the Pakistan Cricket Board suggest the decision to leave out the two bowlers on the eve of the team's departure for the West Indies might have come as a result of an unusually strong statement issued by the International Cricket Council on drugs testing.

Shoaib and Asif both tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone last October in out-of-competition tests carried out by the PCB before the Champions Trophy in India.

Initially, Shoaib was banned for two years and Asif for one but an appeals tribunal later exonerated them of doping charges and lifted the suspensions.

The World Anti-Doping Agency are still challenging that decision via the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The incident led to the PCB holding in-house dope tests for the players and reserves in the World Cup squad.

All the players attended and were cleared except Shoaib and Asif, who were apparently being treated for their injuries in London - though the Pakistan media reported they were undergoing private tests to confirm if the substance for which they were banned remained in their bodies. Medical experts say that traces of nandrolone remain the body for up to six months.

Meanwhile, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed has described Shoaib's and Asif 's clearance to play international cricket as an embarrassment for the sport. …

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