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Top UCB officials knew of marijuana-smoking incident

Top United Cricket Board officials Percy Sonn and Gerald Majola knew of the marijuana-smoking incident involving five South African cricketers in the Caribbean shortly after it took place, the Johannesburg newspaper Business Day has charged.

Peter Robinson
16-May-2001
The President of the United Cricket Board, Percy Sonn, and Chief Executive Gerald Majola were both aware of the marijuana smoking incident involving six South African cricketers in Antigua last month shortly after it took place, even though news of the matter was concealed for a month, the Johannesburg newspaper "Business Day" charged on Wednesday.
According to the paper, Majola admitted to being made aware of the affair the night after it happened, but Sonn refused to answer questions on the matter. "What's this about, organised crime?" Business Day quotes him as saying: "Are you cross examining me? I am not answering any questions on this. I have answered enough questions."
Other South African officials in the Caribbean at the time, including World Cup 2003 Director Ali Bacher, UCB Vice-President Richard Harrison and Treasurer John Blair, have all said that they only became aware of the incident late last week.
If Sonn and Majola knew about the incident and withheld knowledge of it from the UCB, they could be alleged to have subverted the UCB's own disciplinary procedures. It may be argued that a matter as serious as drug-taking should not have been dealt with by the on-tour misconduct committee.
To make matters worse for the UCB, Herschelle Gibbs, one of the six players to admit smoking marijuana, already had a suspended sentence amounting to a three-match ban and a R10,000 fine hanging over his head when the drug-smoking offence took place. To date, more than a month later, no disciplinary hearing has been convened by the UCB to consider whether the suspended sentence should be invoked.
It is understood that there is serious disagreement within the UCB over the handling of the affair, which has rapidly snowballed from a disciplinary offence to what now appears to be a cover-up. The UCB executive committee is scheduled to meet this weekend, and the matter is certain to provoke lively debate.
The affair, possibly the biggest drug scandal to have hit cricket, comes at a time when South African cricket can ill-afford adverse publicity following last year's match-fixing scandal, which led to former captain Hansie Cronje being banned from the game for life and Gibbs, together with Henry Williams, being suspended from international competition for six months.