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Akhtar, Asif could face two-year bans

By Rizwan Ali 17/10/2006 06:11:23 AM Comments (0)

International Cricket Council chief Malcolm Speed says Pakistan bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif could face two-year bans if found guilty of doping allegations that forced them out of the Champions Trophy.

Akhtar and Asif's A samples tested positive to the banned substance Nandrolone in out-of-competition testing conducted for the Pakistan Cricket Board last month.

The Pakistan Cricket Board suspended the pair pending the outcome of analysis of their backup samples, which is expected by Tuesday.

ICC chief executive Speed said the sport's governing body took a "zero tolerance position" on doping.

"If the B sample is also positive there will be a hearing by the PCB doping tribunal. Assuming they comply with the WADA code, it will be similar to the ICC's anti-doping policy," Speed said.

The ICC regulations dictate up to two-year suspensions for a first-time doping offence, which would certainly rule Akhtar out of the next World Cup and virtually end his career.

The Pakistan Cricket Board will form a committee to hear the cases against both fast bowlers.

Akhtar has protested his innocence in an Internet posting, while Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer said his bowlers might have inadvertently absorbed the banned substance during treatment for recent injuries.

The 31-year-old, who was looking forward to a comeback after a long injury layoff, protested his innocence and said he was "gutted" to miss the tournament.

"I cannot say much at this time about what has happened but I just want to assure everyone that I am innocent of doing anything I shouldn't have," he said in his diary on the Bigstarcricket.com website.

"All I can say is that I have not knowingly taken any performance enhancing drugs and would never cheat my team-mates or opponents in this way."

Speed said Nandrolone cases had caused problems in other sports.

"It's not uncommon," he said. "It's been on ICC list since 2002 and number of times the list was advised to our member countries.

"Generally cricket is regarded as a low risk sport in respect of drugs and doping but that doesn't mean we don't take it seriously - five of our members are carrying out doping tests in their countries."

Among the test playing countries - Australia, New Zealand, England, Pakistan and South Africa - regularly conduct doping tests under the WADA code.

India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and West Indies are yet to start.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Nasim Ashraf told a news conference the board carried out tests on 25 players and the two positive results had now been reconfirmed by a Malaysian laboratory.

Pakistan has no system for doping offences but will set up a tribunal to decide how to punish Akthar and Asif if their test results are confirmed, Ashraf said.

"The International Cricket Council has a ban of two years for the first offence but we'll go step by step, form a committee which will look into the evidence," Altaf told reporters.

"We don't want to end the careers of Shoaib and Asif. We will do a complete investigation and then decide the matter."

ICC officials commended Pakistan for conducting its own testing and for withdrawing Akhtar and Asif before the start of the Champions Trophy, ranked second behind the World Cup in importance among limited-overs tournaments.

Pakistan was due to start its campaign on Tuesday against Sri Lanka.

"Let's appreciate PCB because they have done this testing on its own and were not required to do this," he said.

The PCB, "could have sent the players in this tournament and took its chances whether they tested positive or not."

Pakistan has nominated all-rounder Yasir Arafat and left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman as the two replacements for Akhtar and Asif.

Speed said the ICC's technical committee would soon make its decision.

The ICC will conduct random doping tests during the Champions Trophy.

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