Spencer outed for eighteen months
Western Australia's Duncan Spencer has tonight been handed an 18-month ban from all interstate and international cricket matches played under the auspices of the Australian Cricket Board (ACB). The penalty has been applied after the right arm fast bowler was found to have returned a positive drug test in February of this year.
During a marathon seven-hour hearing before a specialist Anti-Doping Committee at the ACB's Melbourne offices today, Spencer conceded that he had taken the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone prior to the start of the 2000-01 Australian season. But the 29-year-old, who has represented both Kent and Western Australia at senior level, testified that his use of the substance - which appears among a list of prohibited drugs under the ACB's formal Anti-Doping Policy - was intended to help him relieve the pain caused by a succession of chronic back injuries.
In handing down the suspension, the three-person tribunal condemned Spencer to the fate of being the first player in the history of the sport in Australia to be outed from the game for a doping misdemeanour.
The panel, which consisted of a member of the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee and judges from the Victorian Supreme Court and Queensland Court of Appeal, had the power to ban Spencer for a minimum two year period under clauses 8.1 and 8.2 of the ACB Anti-Doping Policy. But it instead exercised the option of imposing a reduced sentence under discretionary guidelines that allow the severity of such punishment to be relaxed where extenuating medical circumstances exist.
The precise reasons behind tonight's verdict will be made public next week.
In a short statement read to journalists after the hearing, Spencer said that his sole motivation in using nandrolone had been to assist his recovery from back injuries that had already contrived to keep him out of representative cricket for six years.
"These injections were prescribed to me to improve my everyday life as I had been suffering from chronic pain for the last six years," he said.
"The medication was not prescribed for sport. At the time (of taking the drug), I did not believe I would be able to bowl again, let alone to do so at the first-class level."
Spencer played 14 first-class matches for Kent and Western Australia between 1993 and 1994 before his injury problems first flared. After finally recovering to the point of full fitness, he returned to play six times at domestic one-day level for Western Australia during the 2000-01 season. It was following the last of those six matches - the Mercantile Mutual Cup Final against New South Wales on 25 February - that his breach was detected.
In association with the Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA), the ACB has operated a process of random drug testing of the country's elite-level players for each of the last three seasons. In Spencer's case, he was informed of the positive finding on 29 March and the results were transmitted to the ACB five days later.
ACB Chief Executive, Malcolm Speed, stated tonight that he was satisfied by the way in which the process had been handled.
"No sport would be pleased that one of its players had been found guilty of this type offence but I am reassured by the fact that this player was identified and dealt with quickly through the ACB's testing program and Anti-Doping procedures," Speed said.
"This decision sends a clear message that cricket will not tolerate any player taking prohibited substances and will move swiftly to deal with any person found to have breached the ACB's Anti-Doping Policy."
But Speed also stated that a procedural error at the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) would need to be addressed.
Spencer testified this afternoon that, on his return to the Western Australian team, he had not received a copy of the Board's Anti-Doping Policy - a mandatory requirement for all state players. WACA General Manager, Rob Thompson, later conceded that this requirement had been overlooked.
Speed also confirmed that the ACB has offered personal and career counselling and general support to Spencer to help him come to terms with today's unprecedented events.