Sunday, 5 October 2008

Drugs in Sport

A second sport related rant in about twenty minutes. Clearly I have things to work through. Firstly, I'd like to do something almost nobody else does, and applaude athletics and cycling. What? You can't hear me? You'll just have to trust that I am.

It sounds daft, doesn't it? After all, they're the sports with reputations for having drug problems, and have had for a while. Now think about why they still have that reputation. It's because, despite some still fairly large problems with the system, they are catching drug cheats on a pretty regular basis, and they are banning them. More than that, they usually try not to let them back near the sport, or if they do, it's with the taint of nobody quite trusting any of your performances.

Let's compare that to cricket for a moment, shall we? The other year, two Pakistani fast bowlers submitted positive drugs samples. They were initially due to be banned, but then let off on appeal to their own board. (Though I should probably point out in the interests of fairness that I don't have sufficiently close knowledge of the events to comment on the circumstances of the appeal. It would, therefore, be a bit premature to suggest that this had anything to do with their key places in the World Cup side, particularly as the PCB pulled them out of it at the last minute. This of course had nothing to do with the suggestions that they would be drug tested to within an inch of their lives at the World Cup.)

This is the same board, mind you, that was quite willing to try banning one of them, Shoaib Acktar, for five years for lambasting their competence in a press conference. The other, Mohammed Asif, has since been caught at an airport carrying recreational drugs in his luggage.

So far, so bad. But the one that gets to me, really gets to me, is Shane Warne. Shane Warne, usually billed as the 'greatest leg spinner ever' by the press. Frequently as 'the greatest bowler ever', despite the probably greater claims of Sri Lankan offspinner Muralidarin, mostly because commentators are still convinced that he throws the ball instead of bowling it with a nice non-straightening arm. Which is apparently the greatest crime in cricket.

Not as great, in my opinion, as being a drugs cheat. As a result of a random test, Shane Warne was found guilty of having a banned diuretic in his bloodstream that is banned for its potential as a masking agent for steriod use. Thanks to turning on the charm, not to mention blaming his mother (who, he said, gave him a pill to help get rid of a few double chins for some TV appearances. Which he didn't check, because of course your mummy is never going to give you anything bad) he got away with a one year ban.

And I do mean got away. He got away from cricket for a year, healed up a persistent shoulder injury, and came back stronger than ever to win the 2007 Ashes for Australia, captain Hampshire, and then earn an absolute fortune in cricket-mad India captaining the unfancied Rajastan Royals to victory in the first IPL 20-20 competition. Meanwhile Murali faces the sort of cloud of continuing suspicion that would normally surround a drugs cheat, and all because his permanently bent arm and double jointed wrist give him bowling superpowers. Not only is it unfair, it's an indictment of a sport that used to be held up as an example of fair play.

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