Asif getting away with a light penalty

Cricket administrators are doing what they are known to do best – drag their feet – instead of giving Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Asif the two year ban for testing positive for banned substance, Nandrolone, during the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year.
It is most disappointing that the International Cricket Council (ICC) has not told Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to impose a ban on Asif for testing positive for the banned substance. At this point of time, only the IPL has banned Asif for a year from playing matches held under its banner.
Cricket hasn’t had a more high profile doping case than Mohammed Asif since Shane Warne tested positive for a diuretic in Australia and was withdrawn from the ICC World Cup 2003 in South Africa. Of course, Asif and his fellow fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar both tested positive for Nandrolone in 2006 but got away on technical grounds.
The IPL tribunal comprised former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar, lawyer Shirish Gupte and medical specialist Ravi Bapat appears to have fallen for Asif’s argument that he was unaware that his eye-drops contained Nandrolone that would show up in his urine sample.
Some facts have to be reiterated here.

  • The plea of ignorance is not a valid argument at all. The onus was, is and will be on the athlete to ensure that the medicine does not contain a prohibited substance.
  • If an athlete has had to take such medication under prescription, he has to indicate that in the form that he signs when his urine sample is being collected for testing.
  • The ban must be for two years and not one since Asif has not apparently made a case umder exceptional therapeutic use.
  • IPL does not have the authority to ban Asif from all cricket. It can only ban him from IPL. The only ones who can ban him from all cricket are ICC and, more specifically, PCB.
  • Sadly, neither ICC nor PCB has taken the issue up with the seriousness it deserves.

“As an international governing body, the ICC maintains a zero tolerance in the area of doping,” said ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat. “We are proud of the fact that we have been testing at our events since 2002 and in that time we are yet to have an adverse analytical finding. Together with our members, we are committed to the implementation of a new ICC Anti-Doping Code (2009) that will seek to ensure we have a great sport with a great spirit.”
It looks like Asif and his advisers have decided not to appeal against the ban. For, if he did appeal against the ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), there was a good chance that the ban would have been extended to two years. With ICC and PCB not acting on the IPL decision, it looks like he will get away with just a year’s ban.
Just a few months ago, CAS ruled that a simple prescription from a doctor and a doctor’s advice to use the medicine were not grounds enough to conclude that an athlete had taken all possible steps to ensure that the medicine did not contain a prohibited substance. The IPL tribunal did not even need to be aware of the CAS ruling and should have imposed a two year ban.
Based on that, PCB should have been conducting a hearing with Asif – charging him with dope violation and, since is it such an open and shut case after Asif admitted before the IPL tribunal that he had used a Nandrolone-laced medicine, imposed a two year ban under the WADA code.
In fact, had Asif not gotten away on technical grounds in 2006 when he was suspended after testing positive for Nandrolone before the ICC Champions Trophy, he would have been a fit case for a life ban after his second violation. But he seems to be living on the edge and getting away with it because of official ignorance and laxity.