Is drug testing relevant for cricket? Across the Board from the West Indies Cricket Board
By Dr. Adrian Lorde
Stabroek News
February 16, 2003

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Cricket is or used to be called the gentleman's game, but gentlemen do not cheat, and gentlemen believe in fair play, equality, respect and dignity.

Over the past few years however, all of these ideals in international cricket have changed. There is now the necessity for third umpires and match referees to ensure that the game is played in the true spirit.

Meanwhile, drugs have become a part of sport in particular and our communities in general. Drugs in sport are prohibited for three simple reasons.

First, its presence undermines the fundamental joy of sport and the pursuit of human sporting excellence. Secondly, to protect athletes from unfair advantage gained by those who use banned drugs. And finally, most importantly to prevent the possible harmful side effects to the health of sports people.

In examining these areas, many persons state that the game of cricket is all about natural ability, technique and skill. Can drugs therefore help a cricketer? Many say maybe the fast bowlers, but the truth is what pertains to cricket can be applied to football, baseball, track & field or boxing.

Sports people may cheat to win at all cost. There is now much money in sports and cricket is no exception, although some may argue that there is much less to be gained in cricket than in pro basketball or lawn tennis.

The International Cricket Council and the organisers of the Cricket World Cup 2003 in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya have taken the bold step to drug test the cricketers taking part in the event in accordance with their rules.

Many countries already test their cricketers and although many have not been found positive thus far, this keeps them in line. Cricketers - although regarded as low risk by UK Sports in Britain - are tested not only in competition, but also out of competition when unannounced testing is done.

The World Anti-Doping Agency will be hosting the first World Anti-Doping Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, next month. It is hoped that all of the governments of the world and all international sports federations and national Olympic committees agree and accept one Anti-Doping Code.

The conference will hope to come up with one list of prohibited drugs and methods, one set of sanctions for all sports - Olympic and non-Olympic - and all Governments in the world. So cricket has to get in line and on line too.

The 2003 list of prohibited substances and methods include stimulants, anabolic agents, narcotics, peptide hormones and analogues; diuretics, masking agents, local anaesthetics, corticosteroids, beta blockers, Cannabinoids, manipulation of urine, and gene doping as some of its categories.

All sportsmen, including cricketers, must be aware of these substances on the list. Ignorance is no longer accepted as an excuse.

Which drugs would cricketers use? They might use any of these categories. They might want to use anabolic steroids to build muscle and strength if a fast bowler or explosive batsman or to aid in throwing while fielding.

Steroids may also aid in recovery after training or a match, or aid in the healing of damaged tissues. Diuretics can be used to lose weight or mask other drugs. Stimulants can reduce fatigue and increase concentration, beta-blockers may reduce your heart rate and, hence, the anxiety and nervousness one may get when going out to bat or bowl. The narcotics may aid in pain reduction, but may be addictive.

So what is wrong with using a drug to aid in one's performance? This would be cheating and only countries and cricketers who could afford such would benefit from the use of them.

Most of these drugs when used in the "mega-doses" by the drug cheats do have many long-lasting and some serious side effects from which the unsuspecting cricketer must be protected.

Anabolic steroids, for example, may cause hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, but more seriously severe liver disease, enlargement of the prostate gland, infertility and possibly death.

Diuretics can cause loss of potassium, and dehydration, but more seriously cardiac rhythm abnormalities and its consequences.

The stimulants may cause hyper-thermia (high temperatures), palpitations, elevated blood pressures, insomnia, loss of appetite, hallucinations and seizures. And there are more effects of the many other drugs.

These drugs are easily available in our gyms, via the Internet, or when our cricketers travel. We need to protect the young cricketers of our region from the scourge of drugs in cricket. It is expensive, but we need to maintain the health, dignity and respect of our sports people.

Our cricketers are the role models for our youth. We should salute the ICC and the organisers of this World Cup for commencing drug testing at this level. It needs to be extended now to Test and first-class cricket.

The use of doping substances or doping methods to enhance performance is cheating, unfair and is contrary to the spirit of fair competition. Drug misuse can be harmful to a cricketer's health. It severely damages the integrity, image and value of the sport, whether or not the motivation to use drugs is to improve performance.

DR. ADRIAN LORDE is Chairman of the National Anti-Doping Commission in Barbados and has served on the Olympic, Pan American and Central American & Caribbean Games medical commissions.

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