Cricket’s Hall of Shame – Yasir Shah and the ‘doping’ phenomenon”


Though World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) has set an elaborate definition of the term ’doping’, in simple terms, it pin-points to the use of drugs to enhance performance in competitive sports.

The WADA has also set up some strict rules and guidelines to keep a check on doping with an official list containing all banned drugs not to be used by sportspersons along with comprehensive testing to be conducted periodically.

Recently, the Pakistan leg-spinner, Yasir Shah has been provisionally suspended for failing a dope test conducted by the ICC. Shah, the quickest Pakistan bowler to 50 Test wickets, was found to have chlortalidone in his blood sample. Earlier this month, the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman, Kusal Perera was handed a 4-year ban by the ICC after his drug test yielded positive results.

One of the first ever cases of doping in professional cricket in the international arena was initiated by the English all-rounder, Ian Botham who was suspended for 63 days on account of smoking cannabis in 1986. His absence hurt his team in their subsequent series against India and New Zealand. Though initially denied by Botham, he later confessed the wrong-doing in a TV interview.

On their 1995 tour to South Africa, Stephen Fleming and his team-mates Dion Nash and Matthew Hart, were suspended and fined $175 for taking in marijuana. One of the biggest doping scandals which hit the cricket world was the suspension of Australian spin wizard Shane Warne just before the World Cup 2003 when he failed to clear a dope test. The ban lasted one year. A type of diuretics was found in Warne’s test sample. In another such controversy, the Pakistan pace duo, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif failed drug tests on the eve of ICC Champions Trophy 2006. Akhtar was suspended for 2 years while Asif was slapped with a one-year ban. The Sri Lankan opening south paw batsman, Upul Tharanga was also dished out a three-month ban for using glucocorticosteroids in World Cup 2011.

Domestic cricket has also been rocked by doping from time to time. English international, Ed Giddins was banned for 18 months for taking cocaine in 1996. Former Warwickshire wicketkeeper-batsman, Keith Piper served multiple drug bans in his playing career which included an unbeaten score of 116 supporting Brian Lara in his record 501. Another English cricketer, Graham Wagg was suspended for the entire year 2005 as he was alleged of using cocaine.

In 2001, another English cricketer, Duncan Spencer was banned for 18 months for using anabolic steroid nandrolone during 2000-01 domestic season in Australia. After retiring from competitive cricket, Paul Smith, known famously for being the first cricketer to represent Cape Town club St Augustine post-apartheid era, admitted of using illegal drugs to a Sunday tabloid thus infuriating the ECB to slap him with a two-year ban. Australian cricketer, Graeme Rummans too received a one-month ban and an added monetary penalty on testing positive for probenecid. English international, Dermot Reeve admitted using marijuana in his playing years and cocaine during a commentary session, but was reprieved of punitive measures.

Pakistan international left arm spinner, Abdur Rehman was tested positive for using cannabis and was handed out a 12 week ban by the ECB. Notorious drug-addict, Pakistan cricketer Asim Butt, who represented Scotland in international cricket, also failed a drug test in English county cricket in 2005, thus receiving a one-year ban. Later in 2009, he died in his sleep aged 42. In May this year, young Pakistan cricketer, Raza Hasan was banned for 2 years by the PCB for using an outlawed drug. Indian pacer Pradeep Sangwan too was banned by Kolkata Knight Riders for taking a forbidden drug during IPL 2013. West Indies international, David Murray was a drug addict who lost his fortunes to the malady and now lives in poverty. New Zealand batsman Jesse Ryder too was suspended for 6 months for failing a test for banned stimulants in 2013 domestic season.

Though it is a common notion that sportspersons take illegal drugs to enhance their performance in competitive cricket, a lot of individuals do get trapped in drug mess while taking medication for injury and other ailments. Hence it is also a matter of importance for individual or team doctors to have themselves regularly informed of the (WADA) list of debarred drugs and be wary of not prescribing any from the same to one or many sportspersons under their medication. Another thing to be noted is that cricket is played for longer duration and as such any stimulant taken intentionally does not necessarily serve as performance booster. A game like cricket provides its players with long careers and these prohibited pills certainly have more chances of cutting short or jeopardize one’s career rather than glorifying him to the pinnacle.

These bans that are imposed on cricketers at fault with drug abuse, as deterrents have both positive and negative effects on their respective careers. For instance, both Botham and Warne had remarkable comebacks to international cricket from their exile. Fleming too captained New Zealand for almost a decade after his return into the side. However, David Murray had his career end in oblivion. The Scot international Asim Butt lost his life possibly due to drug overdose. It is only a matter of time before we see how promising head-starts like Shah and Perera and others currently in exile make their comebacks into the mainstream.

Photo by Tourism.Victoria