| Shane Warne and wife Simone leave the Australian Cricket Board headquarters in Melbourne Saturday. (AP/PTI)
Sydney: Star Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne was Saturday banned for 12 months from international cricket for taking banned diuretics, bringing a premature end to his World Cup hopes and jeopardising his illustrious career.
It is the first time an international cricketer has been suspended on drug charges.
The ban would be effective February 10, the day the 33-year-old Warne came to know that he tested positive for the banned drug on January 22 in Melbourne.
The decision came after the Australian Cricket Board’s (ACB) three-member doping tribunal deliberated overnight after hearing from seven witnesses and Warne’s lawyers across eight hours of proceedings.
The ban means Warne cannot join the team in its World Cup campaign in South Africa and will also stand to miss three Test series including one against India. Warne is also ineligible to play for his home state Victoria and English County side Hamspire and neither will he be able to play at his Melbourne club St Kilda.
Warne said he was “devastated” by the decision and would appeal against it. “I am absolutely devastated and very upset at the committee’s decision suspending me for 12 months and I will appeal,” Warne said in a statement. “I feel that I am a victim of the anti-doping hysteria. I also want to repeat I have never taken any performance-enhancing drug and never will,” Warne said.
“I feel that a 12-month suspension is a very harsh penalty for not checking what I took with anyone,” said the bowler who is only 28 wickets short of world record 519 Test wickets of West Indies’ Courtney Walsh.
Warne said he felt it was important for him to clarify some facts in the wake of the ban. “I have never blamed my mom. I thought it was important to clarify where the tablet came from. It had nothing to do with cricket or trying to mask anything. It had to do with appearance,” he admitted.
Warne had comforting words for his teammates in South Africa. “You (the team) don’t need me to win the World Cup. You have the talent, the passion and the desire to bring the Cup back to all of us here in Australia.”
ACB chief James Sutherland later told reporters the board had suspended Warne’s contract for 12 months and that there were “specific reasons” why the tribunal did not impose a two-year ban as was earlier believed.
“The anti-doping committee found that there were no exceptional circumstances which could justify the charge being dismissed,” Sutherland said. “The committee confirmed that the mere presence of diuretics in the sample constituted the use of a prohibited method under the anti-doping policy,” Sutherland said, adding the reasons why the two-year ban was not imposed would be made public later.
“The critical thing is that a decision has been made by an independent committee. We’re comfortable with their findings and the process of arriving at that finding,” he said.
The selectors will now name a replacement for the leg spinner, with Queensland off-spinner Nathan Hauritz and New South Wales leg spinner Stuart MacGill the main contenders.