It shouldn’t surprise that the Champions Trophy has been over-shadowed by the positive drug results to Pakistan fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif.

With today’s headlines saying everything from Shoaib was also on cocaine and cannabis, as well as the steroid nandrolone, to both cricketers denying the charges, banned skipper Inzamam Ul-Haq weighing in and reports that the Pakistan tribunal may sit in judgement within days, the issue isn’t going away any time soon.

Cricket doesn’t help itself, though, by appearing to make up penalties for its various villains as it goes along. If guilty, the pair should face bans of at least two years, but who knows when it comes to a cricket tribunal making the decision?

The recent Inzamam case of bringing the game into disrepute was a shambles, from the public unveiling of umpire Darrel Hair’s emails to the long wait for the hearing.

Even on the dark issue of match-fixing, world cricket authorities are far from united or clear on suitable penalties.

Out of India yesterday came news that the local cricket bosses are thinking of arbitrarily lifting the life ban of former skipper Mohammad Azharuddin. One of five players banned for life after the match-fixing scandals of 2000 and 2001, Azharuddin “has undergone enough punishment”, according to a spokesman for the Indian cricket board.

Despite being found to have been actively involved in match-fixing by ICC investigators, Azharuddin has friends at home. The Indian board included him in a list of former national captains to be honoured in November and he was recently allowed to take part in a veterans’ match against Pakistan because he is technically only banned from Tests and first class cricket. He struck 82 and was happily named man of the match.

The ICC watches all this, while sitting on its hands and occasionally “expressing concern“. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Salim Malik could only watch the veterans match because he was banned from “all forms of cricket” for life.

With the current drug scandal, ICC chief Malcolm Speed will be painfully aware that the rest of the sporting world is watching. As The Guardian reported:

A spokesman for the World Anti-Doping Agency stated that if the Pakistan Cricket Board is deemed to be in any way lenient then Wada will pursue the matter with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Strangely, cricket fans seem to be a lot less concerned about the pair being slapped hard. A poll on The Guardian newspaper’s website asking whether Akhtar and Asif should be allowed to play in next year’s World Cup, received a yes vote of 49 per cent.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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