ICC news February 6, 2015

ACSU chief defends Amir's early return

Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the chairman of the ICC's anti-corruption unit, has defended his decision to allow Mohammad Amir to return to domestic cricket before the end of his ban and expressed hope that the player's example will discourage others who might have been tempted into fixing.

Flanagan insisted his decision did not set a precedent that might be exploited by others attempting to reduce bans relating to corruption. Instead, he compared those trying to corrupt players to "paedophiles" attempting to "groom" their victims and suggested that Amir's message - conveyed to players through a series of educational videos - would serve as a warning to those at risk of unwittingly slipping under the control of "criminal people."

Amir's five-year ban, imposed upon him for his part in a corruption scandal, is due to expire on September 2. But, Flanagan, taking into account Amir's guilty plea in the criminal case and his cooperation with anti-corruption agents in the years since, gave his permission to allow the player to return to domestic cricket under the auspices of the PCB eight months ahead of schedule.

While some have expressed surprise at Amir's accelerated return - he pleaded guilty in the criminal case but had claimed innocence during the earlier ICC hearing - Flanagan is convinced the bowler's remorse is genuine and that his assistance in educational programmes provides a valuable tool in the fight against corruption.

"I am very comfortable with what has happened in the Amir case," Flanagan said in Sydney as he expressed his hopes for a corruption free World Cup. "The ICC board recently decided that people in such circumstances - where they had fully admitted their part, where they had shown true remorse, where they had acted to help us in all our anti-corruption programmes -and where the home federation involved gave their agreement, that I, as chairman of the ICC corruption unit, had the ability to exercise my discretion [to reduce the ban].

"I interviewed him on several occasions. I am certainly very satisfied that he met all those conditions. He had fully admitted his part, he had told us what he knew and he was very cooperative in assisting us with the education programme.

"It is one thing for international sportspeople to hear a message from a retired cop telling them what they should be careful about. But it's altogether another thing when that message comes from someone who had been an international player, who did fall from grace and is saying to them, "Please don't do what I did; please don't succumb in the way that I did."

"He has made videos on our behalf which we have shown to players. He has outlined just how he fell from grace and how much it meant to him. Describing how, when he won his first cap, he slept all night wearing his [Pakistan] shirt and what his fall from grace meant to his family. It's a powerful message.

"I know there will be some who think, "Oh, no, here we go again, another boring session, being warned as if we're somehow under suspicion.

"But they're not under suspicion. The issue is that they must be careful that these people are out there - criminal people - who will do everything they can to get at them. It might start with a simple word of praise, they might offer a small gift, they may invite them to parties where they try to get them in compromising positions and obtain evidence - photographs - of those compromising positions and thereby say, "we only need you to do one thing."

"I trust the players, but I know there are evil people out there. There are rotten, criminal people out there who will do all in their power to get at players and others of influence within the game.

"They will trick them and coerce them and try to attract them almost like paedophiles and how they attempt to groom people into ultimately doing what suits their nefarious intentions in terms of illegal betting."

Flanagan believes that agreements reached with the police forces in Australia and New Zealand - the ACSU has signed a memorandum of agreement with a view to sharing information - will provide greater security against corruption and insists that his decision over Amir should not be interpreted as the ICC compromising their zero-tolerance approach towards corruption.

"I was determined in coming to my conclusion that it should not set any precedent that others might take advantage of," Flanagan said. "The timing of the admission of guilt and the showing of genuine remorse is important. It can't be someone who, for quick relief or benefit, retrospectively comes to that position. The process I approved and the decision I made does not set any improper precedent for others.

"And I have no discretion over what happens in international cricket. Amir's ban still ends on September 2. He can now [only] engage in domestic cricket.

"Of course I understand the alterative view. I've had these discussions with people very close to me whose views I very much respect but hold a different view to mine. People say, "If you have a zero tolerance attitude, how can you do this?"

"And the analogy I use is from criminal law. Criminal law deals with assaults, which range from a common assault - defined as an attempt [to hit someone] - right through to causing grievous bodily harm or murder. You can have absolute zero tolerance to all of that behaviour without thinking the same punishment should apply to each incident.

"The consideration I gave - and I stand by it - is that this does not offer any precedent and that it is right. I am satisfied that the right thing has been done."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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