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Tribunal clears Shoaib, Asif of doping charges

Written by: Staff
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RAWALPINDI, Dec 5 (Reuters) A Pakistan tribunal has cleared cricket fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif of doping offences and lifted their long-term bans.

Akhtar had been banned for two years and Asif for one year in early November after the pair tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone.

The cricketers were exonerated when the panel ruled that they had not had sufficient warning the supplements they were taking could be contaminated by the steroid.

Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board-appointed appeals tribunal Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, announcing the decision in Karachi, said the three-member commission had established that Akhtar and Asif were never advised against taking supplements.

Nor were they provided with any international or local publications warning them against the use of supplements and anti-doping measures.

''It is the considered view of this appeals committee by a majority of 2-1 that Shoaib and Asif have successfully established that they held an honest and reasonable belief that the supplements ingested by them did not contain any prohibited substances,'' the verdict said.

INNOCENT PLEAS Both the bowlers had pleaded innocent to the charge of taking banned substances intentionally to enhance their performances and recover from injuries.

Shoaib and Asif had argued that they didn't commit any doping offence as they were not informed about the dangers of the supplements they were using being contaminated with banned substances like nandrolone.

The tribunal said that both players had met the test of ''exceptional circumstances'' as laid down under clause 4.5 of the PCB anti-doping regulations and they cannot be deemed to have committed a doping offence.

The third member of the tribunal, Dr Danish Zaheer who heads the Pakistan Sports Medicine Association, called for re-testing.

''There were many procedural lapses in the notification, sampling, storage, documentation and result management process to make the entire testing questionable and not fully reliable,'' he said in a written note.

He called for the entire proceedings to be set aside and for the PCB to immediately conduct fresh tests on the two bowlers completely in compliance with laid down international procedures and their appeals then be decided on merit.

TESTED POSITIVE Cricket's world governing body the International Cricket Council remained tight-lipped. ''We haven't seen the judgment and the reasons behind it, so at this stage we won't be able to make any comment,'' a spokesman said from its Dubai headquarters.

It is now up to the Pakistan Cricket Board to decide if both bowlers can play in the ongoing one-day series against the West Indies.

Akhtar and Asif were recalled from the Champions Trophy in India in October after they tested positive in out-of-competition tests conducted by the PCB.

The Pakistan board appointed a drugs inquiry tribunal to hear their cases and it imposed the long-term bans.

Asif told Reuters that he was delighted by the decision and was ready to play for Pakistan again.

''I have gone through a nightmare in the last few weeks. But I have been vindicated due to the prayers of my mother,'' Asif said.

The appeals tribunal decision means both players are now available to play in next year's World Cup.

A PCB spokesman said they would comment later on the appeals tribunal decision. ''We are still looking at it,'' he said.

REUTERS PDS ND1544

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