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ACB digs out Warne alibi

Melbourne: Shane Warne has a faint chance of escaping a two-year ban for failing the dope test which has forced him out of the World Cup.

The ACB — set to determine the fate of the leg-spinner Friday — has cited and defended a controversial ‘exceptional circumstances clause’ in its drug policy, which gives Warne a chance to escape the ban.

He has to prove that he took the tablet without knowing it contained a banned diuretic. If Warne fails to establish his case, he will be suspended for two years, which will effectively end a brilliant and colourful career.

ACB general manager of public affairs Peter Young said it was important to have the clause (4.5b) in case a player tested positive in “exceptional” circumstances. For example, if he is given banned drugs when he is unconscious in hospital or has his drink spiked.

The clause reads: “The player held an honest and reasonable belief in a state of facts, which if they exist, would mean that the player did not commit a doping offence.”

“The exceptional circumstances are in there because of the concern that there are rare occasions where it would be a denial of natural justice where circumstances beyond an athlete’s control had resulted in a breach or ingestion of a prohibited substance,” Young said Thursday.

It is unclear whether Warne plans to use the clause in his defence. He claimed that he was given the tablet by his mother. Sources said she wanted him to “look good” before TV cameras.

“This so-called loophole reflects a legal principle that originates in the rulings of the High Court of Australia and is well recognised as introducing a necessary element of fairness and justice to strict liability offences,” said a lawyer who helped formulate ACB’s anti-doping code.

“I would suggest that the occasion (Warne’s case) demands greater restraint from commentators, especially those who claim legal qualification,” he said.

The Australians are down to 14 players after sending back Warne from the World Cup. Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said they were awaiting news of Warne’s fate before acting on any replacement.

ICC powerless

Meanwhile, a Sydney report adds that the ICC has made it clear that it had no power to intervene, regardless of the outcome of Warne’s hearing, because the spinner was tested before the World Cup in Melbourne by the Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA).

“The ICC could not act in this case because it would be retrospective and we don’t have the power to do that,” a spokesman said Thursday.

However, the ICC was happy with the ACB’s handling of the high-profile case.

“The ACB notified the ICC as soon as they were aware of the player testing positive and withdrew him from the tournament. The ICC commends the ACB for their rapid response,” the spokesman said.

The ICC does not have an anti-doping policy in place but introduced drug regulations for the ongoing World cup under which random testings of players from all countries are being carried out.

The ICC said the current policy would be the basis for a long-term policy “but there is no time frame as yet”. “There are indications that this is the first step towards all countries introducing a drugs policy,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.

Only five of the ten Test-playing nations have anti-doping policies — Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan, which introduced a programme just before the World Cup. India, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have no such policies.

Skipper Ricky Ponting and his boys have sent Warne a good luck message from Potchefstroom (Agencies)

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