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Tough for Warne to return: Steve

Sydney: Shane Warne’s 12-month ban sparked mixed reactions here Saturday with Test captain Steve Waugh saying it would be very difficult for the leg spinner to force his way back in the national squad, and one-day skipper Ricky Ponting noting that he believes this ban is a big wake-up call for athletes in all sports.

Brian Lara spoke out in defence of Warne declaring the Australian leg spinner was not a drugs cheat.

“It is the unknown question, I am sure that Shane will initially say to himself, ‘I want to get back in there and back on the field,’ but as time goes by his mind will be in different places,” said Waugh who was dropped from the one-day side last year. “But it is really his decision, and he has got to have the motivation to continue... To train for 12 months without playing, that has to be very difficult,” Waugh was quoted as saying on an Australian website.

For national chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns the anti-doping tribunal’s decision was something that “had to be lived with”. “Twelve months — that’s the decision and everyone has to get on with it,” Hohns said.

Ponting said: “Obviously he was very naive with it but I think it’s a big wake-up call, not just for cricketers but for sportsman all around the world.”

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates echoed Ponting’s feelings about the wake-up call for all. “This is a stark reminder to everyone that you have to know what’s inside your body and you’re responsible for what you take,” Coates told a news channel. World Anti-Doping Agency chief operating officer David Howman said he did not know as yet the reasoning behind the ruling. “You’ve got to say that they’ve at least done the right thing in making sure that there was a doping infraction found because it would have been a very unusual decision to have done otherwise,” Howman said.

Prime Minister John Howard said he would not comment on Warne’s ban because the leg-spinner had vowed to appeal. “As an appeal is pending the Prime Minister has no comment on this particular case,” a spokesman said. Ponting said in Potchefstroom: “You have to be very careful with the things you put in your mouth and Shane obviously has learned a very hard lesson.”

“I think everyone feels very disappointed for Shane and we are all disappointed for him. Obviously it’s been a very tough time for him over the last week and a half. I believe he’ll appeal this thing and, hopefully, the suspension will be lessened.”

Ponting said most of the team would be speaking to Warne via text message or telephone over the next few hours. “I’ve not spoken to him this morning. I’ve been at breakfast and listened to a couple of the guys but I’m pretty sure most of the guys will speak to him at some stage today. “He’s definitely shattered. Just seeing his reaction when he first addressed the team over here, he was shattered saying he was going to miss the World Cup, which was going to be his last World Cup,” said Ponting.

Ponting added that he and his players had expected something like this to happen, but not to one of their colleagues. “When it does come out and it’s one your teammates and one of the greatest players the world has ever seen — and he’s suspended for 12 months — it’s very disappointing for everyone.

“This World Cup was going to be his last set of one-day matches. He’s worked particularly hard on his fitness in the last couple of years to get his body in the shape that it is and he’s been bowling extremely well.”

“He’s a personal friend of mine. I’m sure, knowing Shane — I’m putting my head on the block — it has nothing to do with enhancing his performance,” Brian Lara said. “I want to contact him personally,“ he said, adding he would phone the leg-spinner immediately.

Carl Hooper echoed Lara’s sentiments. “Shane’s an icon to world cricket,” he said. “Everyone has his own opinion but I think I know him well enough to know that he did not do it.”

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