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TOO LIGHT

Punishments should always be exemplary so that they act as a deterrence. It is clear that the Australian Cricket Board does not believe in this elementary principle, if it believes in any principle at all. The ACB has decided to ban Shane Warne for only one year after the leg spinner tested positive in a dope test. Such a punishment can only be described as being too lenient for what was a violation of one of the basic norms of any sporting activity. The verdict is also completely out of line with what is followed in other games One has only to recall what happened to Ben Johnson. This 100-metres winner at the 1988 Seoul Olympics not only had a two-year ban slapped on him and his medal snatched away, but he was also penalized with a life ban when he tested positive for a second time in 1993. Warne, after his one-year ban, can resume playing at the highest level, provided he retains his form. He may not be able to play in a World Cup again, but he can play test matches after the ban has run its course. On a comparative and an absolute scale, this is a biased verdict. It is far too lenient when compared to what sportsmen in other games have to face when found guilty of a similar offence. It overlooks the fact that Warne has done something which no self-respecting player should do. His plea of ignorance is irrelevant since the use of a diuteric to dilute the effect of activity-enhancing drugs is well known.

The matter acquires another dimension of seriousness because the ACB seems to be making a habit of being extraordinarily lenient with its own players. It will be recalled that both Mark Waugh and Shane Warne had admitted to receiving money from bookies. They were let off by the ACB after the payment of a token fine. An exemplary punishment at that point could arguably have stopped corruption among cricketers which assumed incredible proportions. The ACB is obviously driven by narrow self-interest. It is not keen to punish its good and key players with too heavy a hand. It obviously places patriotism before principles. This is unfortunate, since the Aussies have a long cricketing and sporting tradition. A sporting nation should know that there is more to a game than winning.

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