Yorkshire 'covered up' Gary Ballance drugs tests, claims Azeem Rafiq

Former Yorkshire player claims his own disciplinary issues were dealt with more harshly

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Gary Ballance fell shortly after lunch, England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day, July 15, 2017

Gary Ballance has not played for England since 2017  •  AFP

Azeem Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire include the claim that the club were prepared to cover up a failed drugs test by their former captain and England batter, Gary Ballance - the player who last week admitted to using the racial slur "P**i" to address his former team-mate - but were unwilling to offer Rafiq any support when he was sanctioned by the ECB during an Under-19 series in 2010.
In an emotional testimony to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee in Westminster on Tuesday, Rafiq spoke of the "inhuman" treatment he had received during his two spells at the club, which included Asian players being described as "elephant-washers" and told to "sit by the toilets" in the dressing-room, as well as an incident at the age of 15, when he had wine poured down his throat by a group of older players.
However, some of his most damning testimony centred around Ballance, a current player at the club, who had last week spoken of a deep and lasting friendship with Rafiq after being implicated in the Yorkshire report. Rafiq, however, said that their relationship had turned "toxic", adding that his use of the derogatory term "Kevin" to describe non-white players had become so commonplace that Alex Hales, his former England team-mate, even used it as the name for his dog.
However, in addition to his hour-and-a-half session before the DCMS committee, Rafiq's specific complaints against Yorkshire's players have also been revealed in a 57-page witness statement, compiled ahead of the player's employment tribunal against the club, which was finally resolved last week in one of the first acts of the incoming chairman, Lord Kamlesh Patel.
The document, which had been supplied to the DCMS committee ahead of Tuesday's hearing, was subsequently released by the chair, Julian Knight MP, although he declined to do likewise with the full report into Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism, stating that this was "Yorkshire's mess" and it was their duty to do the right thing without the protection of parliamentary privilege.
In his statement, Rafiq asserts that Ballance "really ran with" the nickname of "Raffa the Kaffir", a term that the former England bowler Matthew Hoggard had first coined - and for which Hoggard subsequently apologised after Rafiq had spoken about it in the media. However, Ballance's "humiliating, racist comments" included digs such as "don't talk to him, he's a P**i", "he is not a Sheikh, he has no oil" and "is that your uncle there?" when driving past Asian men with beards while on the team bus.
In his specific allegations of institutional racism, Rafiq claims that he received "unduly harsh and unfair punishment" in disciplinary matters - most notably compared to Ballance, whom he claims the club protected from a possible playing ban when he was struggling with recreational drug use.
"Over the years, YCCC protected Gary Ballance with respect to his drug and alcohol issues, allowing him to miss drug hair sample tests to avoid sanctions," Rafiq claimed. "When he failed a recreational drug test and was forced to miss some games, the club informed the public he was missing games because he was struggling with anxiety and mental health issues."
Rafiq compared this treatment with the club's reaction in 2010, when Rafiq was sent home from the England Under-19 squad following an incident in the team hotel involving his team-mate Atif Sheikh, and subsequently banned for a month by club and country after an ill-advised outburst against the team management on Twitter.
"I had been out with the whole team one night," Rafiq said. "The next day, John Abraham and Andy Burril, the coach and manager, sent me home without any investigation into the incident. I was completely innocent, but the club did nothing to defend me or look into the matter, and just presumed that I was in the wrong.
"Out of anger over the injustice of the situation, I sent a tweet, which I accept with hindsight was not the right thing to do. As a consequence, I was disciplined and fined by the ECB and banned from playing cricket for a month. YCCC also suspended me for a month. During my suspension, I was not prohibited from attending training sessions or watching matches at the ground. However, when I did attend, John Blaine (Yorkshire 2nd Team Coach), humiliated me by shouting at me in front of everyone and telling the umpire, 'get him off the ground now'."
Rafiq also contrasted his treatment with that of Andrew Gale, the former captain, now head coach, whom the club defended in spite of an ECB ban for using racial language in an altercation with Lancashire's South African player, Ashwell Prince, and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, against whom the club took no further action when he was stood down from an England Lions tour following his implication in a former team-mate's rape trial. He also claimed that a third player had taken an escort into his room during a pre-season tour, but received no sanction.
"Each of these incidents were more serious than the case in which I faced sanction and suspension, but I faced more serious sanction. What I learned over the years was that incidents with white players are covered up and a positive media spin is put out to protect them, yet in the case of Pakistani players, we are criticised unfairly and everything is put on show for the media to attack us with no protection afforded by YCCC."
Rafiq's witness statement also includes his recollections of an incident in 2008, as a 17-year-old in his first full season with the club, when Yorkshire were forced to forfeit their Twenty20 Cup quarter-final against Durham due to his incorrect registration as a Pakistan-born player.
"I had always been up front and honest about the fact that I had been born in Pakistan and that my family had been applying for British residency," Rafiq stated. "It hadn't affected my ability to play under 15s for England: If I had been registered, I would have received a special dispensation from the ECB to participate.
"The quarter final match was called off and abandoned just hours before it was due to begin - and it looked like I was to blame because I was Pakistani, not British born.
"I was absolutely devastated. As the youngest player in the team, it was really hard. It wasn't my fault, but I felt like everyone's anger and frustration was directed at me - and the club didn't protect me or support me.
"YCCC put out a statement saying that my inclusion in the squad had been a last-minute decision. This was not true: I had been in the squad for three weeks prior and had they done the paperwork, I would have been eligible to play. Rather than admitting their responsibility for the error, YCCC let everyone think that I had let the side down by turning up to play at the T20 without disclosing my nationality."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket