Columns / Features

Cricinfo XI

Dabbling with drugs

Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson on players how have fallen foul of less-than-legal substances

Martin Williamson and Andrew Miller

November 1, 2006

Text size: A | A

Drugs in sport are becoming increasingly commonplace, although it's rare that cricket finds itself in the eye of the sort of media storm that is currently engulfing Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif. Here, Cricinfo recalls 11 previous drugs-scandals, most of which have been of the recreational, rather than the performance-enhancing variety



© Cricinfo
Enlarge
Shane Warne
Sex 'n drugs 'n rock'n'roll. That's been Warne's tumultuous career in a nutshell, for his onfield heroics have been matched almost step for step by his off-field scandals. Few moments, however, can match Warne's disgraced departure from the 2003 World Cup. He had been Man of the Match in both the semi-final and final of the previous tournament and so this could have been his finest hour. Instead, he flew home on the eve of Australia's opening match against Pakistan, after failing a test for a banned diuretic. In his defence, Warne claimed he had been given the substance (which promotes weight-loss but can also be used as a masking agent) by his mother, so that he could look good in front of the cameras. Predictably the excuse didn't wash, and Warne was banned from all cricket for a year.

Dermot Reeve
"I have no recollection of seeing the ball on Saturday and Sunday. I had to watch the match video to hear what I said." That was Reeve's frank admission to the Mail on Sunday in May 2005, as he owned up to a cocaine addiction that had led him to resign from his position as a Channel 4 commentator. The match in question was England against New Zealand at Lord's in 2004, when Reeve had arrived late and bedraggled for his stint. Not that anyone seemed to notice, mind you. "They just said I was my usual self but more chirpy - and kept doing Imran Khan impressions off-screen. They said it was the funniest commentary they had ever heard."

Phil Tufnell
Tufnell was never far from the headlines in the course of his stormy career, and so it came as little surprise when, on England 's tour of New Zealand in 1996-97, rumours surfaced that he had been busted for cannabis use. The unseemly centre of the row was the disabled toilet of a Christchurch restaurant, out of which Tufnell was alleged by the waiters to have emerged in a haze of marijuana smoke. The restaurant, however, had a reputation for leaking stories about celebrities, and Tufnell was cleared by the England management after sticking vehemently to his denial. Later that year, however, he was fined 1000 pounds and given an 18-month suspended sentence for failing to turn up for a random drug test after a Middlesex Championship match.

David Murray
Murray was considered one of the best glovemen of his generation and a sure-fire successor to namesake Derek. But by his own admission he had been smoking marijuana since he was 11 or 12, and by 1978 he had moved onto cocaine. He admitted smoking pot before and after the day's play - "But never in the breaks - you can't do that" - and his habit was fuelled on a tour of India when he found drugs easy to come by. "A waiter at the team hotel started the whole thing," he said. "There was a market there, near the Gateway of India, where you used to get anything, good African marijuana, everything... it's a great place." In Australia in 1975-76 he would have been sent home after his secret was discovered but he was given a second chance after the intervention of Lance Gibbs. His career ended early in acrimony, and he was given a life ban after touring South Africa with a rebel West Indies side. He now lives in poverty in Barbados.

Ian Botham
After a wretched tour of West Indies where almost as much was written about alleged activities off the field as anything which happened in the middle, Botham was quoted in the Mail on Sunday admitting that he had used cannabis despite previous denials of such claims. The tabloids led a witch-hunt of remarkable moralistic hypocrisy, with some calling for him to be banned for life. Veteran Guardian journalist Frank Keating, however, suggested Botham be paid for "bringing the game into repute". In the end the ECB spluttered righteous indignation and banned Botham for 63 days. In his absence England slumped to Test defeats against India and New Zealand, before Botham returned with typical bombast, first equalling then breaking Dennis Lillee's world Test-wickets record in the space of 12 balls of his comeback at The Oval.

Stephen Fleming, Dion Nash and Matthew Hart
Fleming, Hart and Nash were all banned for smoking cannabis at a barbeque after an investigation into New Zealand's dismal performance in South Africa in 1993-94. While Fleming and Hart admitted their part in proceedings, Nash claimed he had "merely simulated" using the drug. Fleming later claimed that "more than half the squad were involved" but that the three of them had taken the rap after Danny Morrison had reported the incident to the management. The trio were fined $175 but Fleming admitted it had cost him tens of thousands in legal fees and lost sponsorship. Peter McDermott, chairman of NZC, lamented that "their behaviour is endemic of the malaise that appears to have infected the game ... this has been one of the darkest weeks in the history of our sport." Steady on.

Paul Smith
Warwickshire's allrounder admitted in 1997 that he was "on cocaine on and off during my 12 years playing for Warwickshire," adding: " There are drug tests in the sport, but they never really concerned me." He claimed that blockers he took fooled the authorities. His troubles started when he went on a sporting scholarship to Johannesburg. "In South Africa drugs were a whole new ball game. Soon I was downing 15 cans of lager and topping it off with grass. I was introduced to drugs like cocaine and speed and discovered they are commonplace in all sports." He also told the Sunday Mirror: "At private parties all over the world I have seen top cricketers, international Test stars, take drugs. Cannabis is the most common. Well-known personalities on cocaine and heavier gear don't go around broadcasting it, because the penalties for getting caught are high." By the time he made his confession he had retired from first-class cricket but was nevertheless banned for two years by the ECB. A few years later he applied for the role of Warwickshire chief executive.

Keith Piper
Double trouble for Warwickshire's stalwart who, in an earlier era where glovework was considered more important than batting ability, might have gone on to represent England. He failed an internal drugs test in 1997 and served a one-match ban. In 2005 he was again found out and was banned for the remainder of the summer. But most of the media flak which followed was aimed at Warwickshire, who had repeatedly seen their players hauled up for taking illegal substances and yet who repeatedly failed to take any substantial action to address the situation. It then emerged that an external consultancy firm had been hired to come up with proposals six months earlier, and these had not even been discussed.

Various South Africans
There's nothing wrong with a party after winning a match - but six of the South African squad who had just clinched the Test series in Antigua in 2000-01 rather overdid things and were fined $1300 after admitting smoking dope. Roger Telemachus, Andre Nel, Paul Adams, Justin Kemp and physiotherapist Craig Smith admitted the charge, as did Herschelle Gibbs, whose six-month ban for conspiring with Hansie Cronje to fix matches had only ended months earlier. Gibbs was the only one to face additional punishment as he was already serving a suspended three-match ban for breaking a team curfew in Australia a year earlier. The headline writers had a field day: "Gibbs makes a hash of it" was a favourite, while references to Justin Hemp were commonplace.

Wasim Akram
Wasim's great career was often tainted by controversy, not least in the Caribbean in April 1993, his maiden tour as Pakistan's captain. During the team's stop-over in Grenada, he was arrested along with three team-mates - Waqar Younis, Aqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed - and two female British tourists, and charged with possession of marijuana. The Pakistan management strongly protested the charges, claiming that the players had been "set up" in a bid to unsettle the squad. The row reached diplomatic levels as Grenadan cricket officials lobbied the Prime Minister, Nicholas Braitwaite, and asked him to intervene on the players' behalf. In the end the storm blew over, but the start of the first Test in Trinidad was postponed by a day to allow the players to recover from the mental stress.

Ed Giddins
A talented county seamer in the summer and a Christmas-Tree salesman in the winter, Ed Giddins was one of the more colourful characters in the English game. On top of earning four Test caps between 1999 and 2000, he was no-balled for throwing, suspended for five years for betting on his county, Surrey, to lose, and sacked by his former employers, Sussex, for cocaine use. Like so many others in a similar predicament, Giddins claimed that his drink had been spiked at a party. Since retirement, however, he has decided to embrace his high-rolling public image, and has sought to make a living as a professional poker player.

Martin Williamson is managing editor and Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Martin Williamson

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

TopTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Martin WilliamsonClose
News | Features Last 3 days
News | Features Last 3 days