The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It was an honest mistake: Botham

London: The failed drugs test which caused Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne’s exit from the World Cup in South Africa was “an honest mistake,” former England captain Ian Botham said Wednesday.

Aussie legend Dennis Lillee also backed Warne to bounce back from the controversy.

“It’s time we applied a bit more common sense to these things,” Botham was quoted as saying in his newspaper column.

“There is a world of difference between brazen cheats who hoodwink fellow competitors and the likes of Warne who, in my opinion, has just made an honest mistake.

“How is it going to help him bowl a fizzing leg-break, a googly or a flipper' I trust the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) will deal with Warne’s case as quickly as possible,” added Botham.

Warne failed a drugs test for diuretics — a substance often used to help reduce weight but also as a masking agent for other drugs — in Australia on January 22.

The test was carried out by the Australian Sports Drug Agency, who informed Warne of the failed test Monday. He then told the ACB of the findings. If Warne is found guilty he could face a maximum ban of two years under ACB rules.

Botham said it was time for a re-think of the regulations concerning drugs in sport.

“If, as I suspect, Warne’s case turns out to be a molehill instead of a mountain, I believe we need to take a long look at all the regulations which have turned dispensing chemists into no-go areas for athletes.

“Warne’s absence from the World Cup can only devalue the tournament. This is the only competition where you get all the best cricketers in the world together — and now we’ve been shorn of arguably the game’s brightest star.

“For what' A fluid reduction pill to help him keep his weight down after spending a month out with injury. Big deal!” Botham wrote.

Lillee’s conviction

Lillee said in his column that he believed Warne would be able to salvage his career even if he receives the two-year ban. “If he was to receive the harshest penalty this would make him 35 years of age on his return — still plenty of time for a hungry wolf to make a concerted attack on his other goal — 500 Test wickets.

“A more realistic total would be 600 or 700 if he does reach his other goal of playing until he’s 40. I know Warney is no angel, and that controversy has not been far away over the years, but there is no way in the world he is a drug cheat.”

Lillee said it was in the Test arena that Australia would miss Warne the most. “This was so evident when Warne was unavailable through a shoulder injury for the final Test of the recent Ashes series. Without him England were able to turn the tide.

ACB to wait

Australian selectors will wait for more news before announcing his replacement for the World Cup, the ACB said. Warne will appear before the ACB’s anti-doping committee this week.

An ACB spokesman confirmed the board would wait for a clearer picture of Warne’s situation before asking the ICC if a new player could be sent to Africa.

Without Warne, Australia have only 14 players in South Africa but the squad will be boosted by the return from suspension of Darren Lehmann and the likely availability of the injured Michael Bevan.

If selectors decide to send another spinner in a straight swap for Warne, Queensland off-spinner Nathan Hauritz and NSW leggie Stuart MaCgill appear the main contenders. (Agencies)

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