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THERE have been mixed reaction to the International Cricket Council’s decision to adopt the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) regulations. In comparison with other sports, cricket has appeared less tainted by drug controversy. But fortunately the ICC has concluded that it can no longer afford to be complacent and ignore the threat of drugs ruining its cricketers’ careers and making a mockery of the game. In my opinion the ICC should be applauded for endorsing Wada’s regulations, as it is sending a clear message to the cricketing world that drugs, in any form, will not be tolerated
The controversial aspect of Wada’s newly adopted regulations is the obligation placed on players to inform the ICC of their whereabouts at all times, off-season included. This requirement is essential for carrying out continual random testing and it is vital to the success of a drug-monitoring programme.
The Indian cricketers have vehemently opposed this section of the legislation, for two reasons. Firstly they feel that it invades their privacy and secondly because they are concerned about the potential security risk should their whereabouts be known at all times.
It’s a grievance worth acknowledging but not upholding, as a drug-monitoring programme that only operates during cricket seasons would be completely ineffectual.
With the increasing pressure on international cricketers to make the most of their limited careers, the physical demands on their bodies are escalating. Should a player be injured and have to take a season off to recover, there is an increased likelihood that he may consider taking performance-enhancing substances — drugs such as Nandralone, that aid recovery in the short term.
Potential loss of earnings is a huge factor for cricketers and puts many players at risk. Shoaib Ahktar and Mohammed Asif are cases in point. Both players who tested positive for the banned steroid have had to spend lengthy periods away from the game due to injury.
But performance-enhancing drugs are not the only threat to cricketers, with the incidence of players using recreational drugs such as cocaine and marijuana on the increase. There are a number of tragic stories of talented cricketers whose lives have been ruined by these drugs. Perhaps none more woeful than that of West Indian cricketer David Murray, the son of the legendary Test batsman Sir Everton Weekes.
Murray, a gifted gloveman, who played 19 Tests for the West Indies before being banned, drifted away from the game and now lives in penury in Barbados.
In more recent times drug addictions have destroyed the careers of many fine cricketers. Chris Lewis and Ed Giddins, both English Test bowlers’ have struggled with addiction, as has Dermot Reeve whose cocaine habit saw him lose a lucrative commentary contract with Channel 4 television.
In England the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) recognise this and provide support in the form of help lines that offer 24-hour counselling.
Ian Chappell, the outspoken former Australian Test captain, has had much to say about drugs in cricket. His motivation for supporting Wada is based purely on the fact that he feels performance-enhancing drugs will make a mockery of players’ records and statistics.
This is true but I think it’s also important to acknowledge Wada’s other benefit, which is to protect the players.
Wada will vastly improve the ICC’s ability to identify those players who are struggling with addiction or who are using banned substances. Early detection will provide affected players with the opportunity to come clean and to get their lives back on track.
The adoption of Wada’s anti-doping laws by the ICC is encouraging as it signals its determination to address the problem and to preserve cricket and its players’ integrity.