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Fines doubled but 21-day ban scrapped as ECB update recreational drug policies

New policies maintain focus on player welfare following Alex Hales World Cup deselection saga

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Alex Hales has not played for England since his deselection from their World Cup squad  •  Getty Images

Alex Hales has not played for England since his deselection from their World Cup squad  •  Getty Images

The ECB have confirmed their recreational drug policy for the 2020 season, which sees players fined more strictly for their first and second offences but no changes to the policy of confidentiality that meant Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss only found out about Alex Hales' drug use through reports in the media.
Hales was deselected from England's World Cup squad weeks before the tournament last year after a 21-day ban for his second violation of the recreational drug policy, which became public following a story in The Guardian.
It was anticipated that the Hales case would prompt a change in the regulations, not least after Ashley Giles' admission that Hales would have been in England's World Cup squad but for that story. But while the fine for a second offence has doubled ahead of this season, from 5 percent of a player's annual salary across all of their teams to 10 percent, there has been no change in the parties informed when an offence has taken place, and the 21-day ban for a second offence has been scrapped.
Hales' ban from the game - explained by Nottinghamshire at the time as a break for "personal reasons" - laid the trail for reporters to discover the real reason for his absence last summer which led to his eventual deselection from the England squad. He has not played international cricket since.
The changes in the policy came about following broad consultations with those in the game, including first-class counties and the PCA, with a strong focus on player welfare. The suspicions aroused by Hales' ban last year appeared to have led to the conclusion that any ban should be made public.
Hair follicle testing for recreational drugs was initially introduced in 2013, following the death of Surrey batsman Tom Maynard, and the ECB's policies on recreational drugs have been designed to protect the vulnerabilities of those who might be struggling with addictions.
After a first violation of the policy, the ECB's chief medical officer and various other administrative officials, plus the PCA director of development and welfare and the relevant county's chief medical officer are all told. A player will now be given a fixed, immediate fine - 5 percent of their annual salary - at this stage, rather than a suspended £500 fine.
Following the second violation, the county's CEO, the PCA's CEO, the ECB's CEO and - in the case of centrally-contracted cricketers - the director of England men's or women's cricket are also notified, but remain bound by confidentiality arrangements.
After a third offence, a player is handed a 12-month ban from the game, and details are made public by the ECB. In each case, they are required to attend a meeting with the ECB's chief medical officer to determine an "appropriate rehabilitation programme".
The only player to have violated the policy on three occasions is Durham batsman Jack Burnham, who tested positive for cocaine for a third time in 2017 and received a 12-month ban.
"We can confirm that there has been an update to the Recreational Drugs Policy for 2020," said an ECB spokesperson. "This was part of a broad consultation involving stakeholders from the wider game including first-class counties and PCA.
"The policy takes into account the important consideration of player welfare whilst ensuring there are meaningful sanctions for each violation. There was further consensus from all parties that any bans will be made public."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98