In breaking news out of Pakistan, Test bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have been banned from the game – Akhtar for the minimum two-year penalty, and Asif for a below-minimum one year.

The pair tested positive for the steroid nandrolene at the end of September, and were forced home from the Champions Trophy on the day before Pakistan’s opening game. Cricinfo reports that the tribunal formed to sit in judgement came to the conclusion that they were guilty.

“We gave a full chance to both the pacemen to fight their cases and after a thorough inquiry we feel they failed to prove their innocence,” Panel Chairman Shahid Hamid said. “The process of doping was investigated carefully. We made sure the tests were conducted properly, samples reached the laboratory in Malaysia safely and there was no error in testing in the laboratory.”

Akhtar apparently told the tribunal that his result must have come from either his high-protein diet, including beef, chicken meat and other dietary supplements, or maybe from some herbal medicines he had received from a herbal expert.

Unfortunately he could not prove either argument.

“Asif’s case was different. Pakistan physician Darryn Lifson confirmed he stopped him from taking a banned substance a few months back,” Hamid said.

Whether the ICC and World Anti-Doping Agency are prepared to let Pakistan’s internal cricket chiefs flout the fact that the minimum penalty is a two-year ban remains to be seen. Shane Warne was allowed to return from his drug ban after one year. Asif is only 24 and could still enjoy a long career, post-ban.

Both players can appeal the decision but chose not to have their B-samples re-tested, indicating that they did not dispute the positive finding. Akhtar may well have flicked his magnificent mane of hair at the top of his run for the last time.

Peter Fray

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