Anti-Doping Agency set to appeal to international court December 22, 2006

WADA to challenge Shoaib and Asif verdict

Osman Samiuddin and Nagraj Gollapudi

Troubled times ahead for Shoaib Akthar and Mohammad Asif as WADA is set to contest the overturn of drug ban © Getty Images
As was widely expected, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has filed an appeal in the international sports court challenging a Pakistani appellate committee's decision to overturn the bans on Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif for doping charges.

Frédéric Donzé, WADA media relations manager, said the decision to lodge an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Lausanne, Switzerland, was within WADA's own remit. "WADA has decided to exercise its independent right to appeal, provided in the World Anti-Doping Code, to the CAS against the Pakistani Cricket Board's appeal panel decision to overturn the sports sanctions of two athletes who recently tested positive for performance enhancing drugs," Donze told Cricinfo.

The duo had tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid Nandrolone in internal tests held by the PCB in September. After being hastily called back from the Champions Trophy in India in October, Shoaib was handed a ban for two years and Asif for one, by an independent committee set up to investigate the charges.

Both players subsequently appealed and were fully exonerated, with no punishment, by the appellate committee recently. The committee's decision was based on their interpretation of the PCB's own anti-doping policy, which is considerably out of sync with that of WADA's. Under PCB rules, for example, Shoaib and Asif successfully pleaded ignorance and argued any substances were consumed unintentionally. According to the WADA code, however, ignorance is not always defence.

Donze added, "WADA believes that the decision to overturn the sports sanctions is not in conformity with the World Anti-Doping Code so WADA exercises its responsibility to ensure proper implementation of and compliance with the Code. WADA has determined that it has the right - and the duty - to appeal in the circumstances in the interest of doping-free sport and the uniform application of the Code in all sports and for the protection of athletes who are not doping."

While it is difficult to predict how much time the process will now take, the decision to appeal puts Pakistan in a quandary as both bowlers have been selected in the preliminary squad for the tour of South Africa and if fit are likely to tour.

A PCB official told Cricinfo that it was too early for a reaction. "We will only react when we receive something in writing now. It is too early to say anything at the moment." The board has repeatedly said that the matter is now closed, and was an internal matter in any case, but with the appeal having been filed, clearly that is no longer the case.