Sydney, Nov 2 (UNI) Cricket Australia (CA) has come up with a novelty by announcing a stringent new Illicit Substances Policy to crack the whip on drug offenders, which could lead to a ban upto three years.
The policy, developed in consultation with the Australian Cricketers Association, provides for year-round out-of-competition testing for illicit substances for all players contracted to CA or associations coming under it.
CA chief executive James Sutherland, believes that the policy announced today is fair, balanced and the right one for the Australian cricket.
Outlining the intricacies of the new Illicit Substances Policy, Sutherland said, ''We want to deter players from the use of illicit substances but at the same time we want to recognise that there can be issues and that the welfare of our players is very important.'' Under the policy, a player would be given a suspended fine for a first offence, a suspended 20-day match ban and would be required to undergo education, rehabilitation and target-testing on confidential terms.
A second violation would activate the offender's initial suspended fine, incur an additional fine and would attract a 40-day suspension.
Further violations of the policy could lead to suspension from anywhere between one to three years.
Rehabilitation is compulsory each time a player violates the new policy which complements Cricket Australia's adoption of the WADA Anti-Doping Code.
Interestingly, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has made this an issue while exonerating both Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif in the drug scandal. Both the players were sent back to home from the ICC Champions Trophy in India, although the tests were carried out three weeks before the tournament began.
The issue snowballed into the most high-profile drugs case in cricket since legendary spinner Shane Warne was banned for a year in 2003 for testing positive for two diuretics.
Announcing the policy at the CA headquarters in Melbourne, Sutherland said it was important that Cricket Australia was seen to be taking a proactive stance on illicit substances.
''The challenge is finding the appropriate balance - it's a complex issue.
''We want our sport to be drug-free and we're absolutely adamant that this is the right policy for cricket today,'' Sutherland said.
The CA chief executive further said that it wasn't appropriate to compare the new policy with the protocols in place in other sporting codes in terms of 'toughness'.
''We see our policy as being hard but fair and what we were intent on was ensuring that this was a policy that was in the best interests of cricket, the right policy for cricket right now,'' he said.
The chief executive of the Australian Cricketers Association, Paul Marsh said the players, who were extensively surveyed in the development of the policy, fully supported it.
''The whole two versus three-strike debate has probably been overplayed,'' Marsh said.
''It's really a line in the sand that if the player crosses it, they'll be sanctioned.
''What's more important is what comes before that, the testing side of it, the education and the rehabilitation.
''If we get that right, we shouldn't have players getting to two strikes, let along three strikes,'' Marsh said.
Marsh also said his members were comfortable with the idea that they could be tested anywhere, anytime under the new code, while Sutherland stressed that confidentiality is fundamental to its integrity.
''It's fundamental to the well-being issue and rehabilitation in the first instance and we're absolutely committed to that confidentiality,'' Sutherland said.
''We will be implementing whatever measures are appropriate to ensure that it remains that way,'' he added.
The number of tests conducted will remain confidential under the new policy, but the Cricket Australia CEO assured the media the testing regime would be 'rigorous'.
''This is a voluntary policy that we are putting in and we are absolutely committed to zero drugs in our sport,'' said Sutherland.