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Shoaib Akhtar has been banned from cricket for two years and Mohammad Asif for one, after both were found guilty of using the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone, by a three-man drugs tribunal formed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Both men tested positive after dope tests conducted internally by the PCB at the end of September. They were pulled out of Pakistan's squad for the Champions Trophy on October 16, the day before their opening game.
"We gave a full chance to both the pacemen to fight their cases and after a thorough inquiry we feel they failed to prove their innocence," said Shahid Hamid, the chairman of the panel that also included former captain Intikhab Alam and Waqar Ahmed, a medical expert. "The process of doping was investigated carefully. We made sure the tests were conducted properly, samples reached the laboratory in Malaysia safely and there was no error in testing in the laboratory.
"Both the players were satisfied and accepted the tests and gave their point of view but after a thorough inquiry and bound by the Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) we reached the decision." Bob Woolmer, Pakistan coach, told AFP the ban "was not good news for Pakistan."
Hamid elaborated why the two had received different sentences: "Akhtar contested the case saying that he has been on a high-protein diet which contained beef, chicken meat and other dietary supplements and he also said he took some herbal medicines from a Hakim (herbal expert) but he couldn't prove them.
"Asif's case was different.... Pakistan physician Darryn Lifson confirmed he stopped him from taking a banned substance a few months back."
Under the ICC's doping rules, a two-year ban is the minimum penalty for a first offence. However, the PCB had insisted all along it will take its own decisions, since the tests were conducted internally. As a younger member of the squad, Asif, 24 next month, has been let off comparatively lightly, and can be expected to fight again for his place next year. For Shoaib, however, the final curtain could be falling on an eventful and controversial career. Both players do, however, have the right to appeal and, if they do, a separate tribunal will be conducted.
Both had been recovering from injuries in the weeks and months building up to their positive tests, with Shoaib suffering from knee and ankle problems and Asif fighting back from an elbow problem that forced him to miss much of Pakistan's tour of England last summer.
Shoaib initially denied any misconduct, saying: "I have not knowingly taken any performance enhancing drugs and would never cheat my team-mates or opponents in this way." But earlier this week, both men declined the offer of a retest on their B samples, which implied that they did not question the results. Both men are, however, entitled to appeal against their ban.
For Pakistan cricket as a whole, the verdict marks the end of an unpalatable three-month period, which began with the ball-tampering controversy at The Oval, leading to the first forfeiture in Test history and a four-ODI suspension for their captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Younis Khan, Inzamam's stand-in, then resigned on the eve of the Champions Trophy, claiming he did not wish to be a "dummy" captain, only to be reinstated following the resignation of the PCB's exasperated chairman, Shaharyar Khan.