Warne fails drug test and returns home from World Cup
There might be some outstanding performances to come on the field to make the World Cup of 2003 memorable for all the right reasons. However, there is every indication at this point to suggest that it is doomed to go down in the history books as the one that fell foul of all the ills of modern sport.
There has yet to be a corruption scandal - praise be for that - but the start of the competition has been marred by the political posturing over security in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and now there is a drugs revelation.
The Australian Cricket Board has confirmed that Shane Warne has been sent home after failing a drugs test.
The leg-spinner has been tested positive for a diuretic - a substance that is often used as a weight-reducing drug. Warne will fly back to Australia immediately to undergo further tests. The initial one was a routine test carried out by the ACB.
Warne has been on a fitness campaign for just over a year and his weight has come down steadily so that he looked to be in good shape. He suffered a shoulder injury during the one-day series against England that threatened his participation in the World Cup, but he overcame it well. Despite some soreness, he has been back in action ahead of schedule and was hoping to mark the end of his one-day international career in style.
ACB chief executive officer James Sutherland announced the news at a press conference with the words: "I am here today to announce that Shane Warne has expressed his wish to stand down from the Australian World Cup team and will return to Australia today to complete further drug tests and face a hearing under the ACB anti-doping policy.
"This follows Shane's advice to us that the Australian Sports Drugs Agency have told him he has tested positive for a diuretic on samples he provided in Sydney last month.
"Shane notified the ACB yesterday as soon as he received the news and he believes the failed tested is because of a flu reduction medication he took in Sydney last month.
"The ACB has referred the matter to the ACB anti-doping committee based on our belief that he may have committed an offence under the ACB anti-doping rules. The hearing will take place in Melbourne as soon as possible."
There has been a testing programme in Australian cricket since 1998 and all the players have been informed about the intricacies of that policy.
Sutherland went on to say, "We commend Shane about his approach, including coming forward as soon as the information was made available.
"We have advised the ICC of the situation and have applied to the technical committee for approval to replace Shane in the World Cup squad committee."
Warne himself commented: "As James has said, I was shocked and absolutely devastated that the test sample indicated a presence of a prohibited substance. It's not finalised until my B sample.
"I'm shocked because I have not taken performance enhancing drugs. I did take a fluid tablet before my comeback game in Sydney and didn't know it contained any banned substance.
"I have decided to return home in the best interest of the team and address the situation personally which the ACB are supportive of.
"I want to repeat, I have never taken performance enhancing drugs and am confident it will be cleared up soon.
"My previous tests have always come back negative. I have spoken to my team-mates and they are supportive."
Australian captain Ricky Ponting had to contend with the situation immediately prior to the important match against Pakistan at The Wanderers. He admitted that the news about Warne was not ideal preparation.
"It's been a little disappointing for it to happen the way that it has. We just have to get on with things. We've got a big game of cricket and we've got to keep this completely out of our minds."
Sport is littered with cases of players being caught for taking prohibited substances designed to help performance. Equally disturbing is the large number found guilty of taking prohibitive substances that are not designed to enhance performance and taken in all innocence. Nevertheless, if the scourge of drugs is to be eliminated or at least controlled in sport, there has to be a policy of zero tolerance.
Shane Warne could well fall into the category of innocent victim of that policy. So far, he has followed the correct procedure and it must be hoped that one of the game's living legends will not have his career tarnished by these revelations. He might not have always been an angel and, of course, he has yet to be proved guilty in this instance, but there are plenty who have committed worse crimes against the good name of cricket and got away with them.