NEW DELHI: At a meeting in Dubai last March, the International Cricket Council (ICC) asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the ‘owner’ of the Indian Premier League (IPL), to introduce a set of regulations in the Twenty20 competition. One of them was an anti-doping code.
The IPL duly drew up a code, based on the World Anti Doping (WADA) Code. The IPL Chairman, Lalit Modi, said in Jaipur recently that a testing team was in place and players would be picked soon for random testing.
Several questions, however, remain. Does testing in the IPL have any relevance? Can an international player competing in the IPL be sanctioned as per the WADA Code in case there is a ‘positive’ test and an anti-doping violation charge is proved? Or will the sanction be limited to just the IPL?
An ICC spokesman stated on Saturday that since this was a domestic competition, the BCCI or the IPL would be having a mechanism to deal with a ‘positive’ case.
The BCCI does not have an anti-doping code and thus it cannot conduct tests or sanction a player.
Beyond imposing a suspension from the IPL or slapping monetary sanctions, the IPL would be powerless in suspending a player from the game as per ICC rules or WADA Code.
A BCCI official admitted that the Board would be in no position to initiate proceedings if an anti-doping rule violation charge was proved.
The IPL code has the standard two-year suspension for a first violation and life-time ineligibility for a second offence. But this is what it states in the relevant rule (9.9) on ‘status during ineligibility’: “No cricketer who has been declared ineligible may, during the period of ineligibility, participate in any capacity in any match…”
The ICC code bars such a cricketer from participating in “any capacity in an event or activity authorised or organised by the ICC or any member” during the suspension period.
Even if one were to interpret IPL code’s reference to “any match” to include all official cricket, can such a ban be imposed?
Logically, it cannot be since the ICC anti-doping code, even after the Shoaib Akhtar-Mohammad Asif drama of 2006, is limited to ICC events and continues to define a player as a “cricketer who participates in ICC events.”
The BCCI cannot impose a ban either since it does not have an anti-doping code. IPL’s jurisdiction, it is to be assumed, will be limited to just the IPL.
Suspending a player from only the relevant competition and allowing him in, say a Test match, subsequently, within a short time, will be akin to having an athlete testing positive for a steroid and being banned, from say the Golden League circuit, for two years but being allowed to compete in the Olympics within a week!
The situation could be different for a foreign player since four ICC members — Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa — have their own anti-doping rules.
The question could then be about the legitimacy of IPL as a ‘testing authority’.
Despite claims, the IPL cannot be a signatory to the WADA Code.
National federations and tournament organisations are supposed to become ‘WADA compliant’ the moment the international federation concerned signs up.
Since the time WADA lost an appeal, in June, 2006, against the exoneration of Akhtar and Asif because of “lack of jurisdiction” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the ICC has maintained that it had strengthened its anti-doping code. It now has the right of appeal in case a member takes a decision that is inconsistent with the WADA Code. The BCCI, which is a member of the ICC, however, does not have a set of anti-doping rules.
Another Akhtar-Asif example can put the ICC to further embarrassment, for, this is what the CAS wrote in its verdict in June, 2006, while dismissing the WADA appeal on the PCB decision to absolve Akhtar and Asif: “It is the responsibility of the ICC to ensure that its members promulgate anti-doping rules which are consistent with the WADC (world anti doping code), and which enable either the ICC or its member or WADA to appeal against what might be termed ‘rogue’ decisions.”
In rushing through with an anti-doping code, the IPL has exposed younger domestic players to some risk since they might not have heard about therapeutic use exemption (TUE) that allows a player to use a prohibited drug for medical reasons, or about the need to exercise caution while consuming several over-the-counter medications for cough and cold.