Saturday, November 04, 2006

Drugs, Booze and Shoaib Akhtar's sex life

There's always a crisis in Pakistani cricket. If it's not resigning captains and retiring players, it's staging walk-offs and bringing games into disrepute. The current doping controversy, however is scandalous even by Pakistani standards.

I do realize that Akhtar and Asif were in the wrong, and deserve to be reprimanded for their acts. What I do not understand, however, is why Akhtar was handed a more severe ban than Asif, for what was essentially the same offense. Both were found guilty on the charge of drug abuse, and had pretty much the same amount of nandrolene in their respective samples. Still, while Asif was handed a one year ban, Akhtar was banned for two years. Perplexed, I turned to Intikhab Alam for an explanation.
Intikhab rubbished speculations that the panel was unfairly harsher on Akhtar than Asif. "If people read our statement they will understand," Intikhab asserted. "He [Shoaib] drinks alcohol, has an active sex life and he's been part of anti-doping awareness programmes. Shoaib has been around for the last ten years and the written statement that his spokesman gave about him taking dietary supplements and not consulting a doctor, shows he was negligent."

On Asif he said: "We decided to ban him for a year because his English is not that good, he comes from a remote village where he would not have been educated on the dangers of drugs in sport and so he doesn't understand."
Whoa! Hold on a minute. Let me read that again.

I used to pride myself on my understanding of rational logic, but Mr. Alam here has completely shattered my illusion. Either that, or his reasoning is utterly specious. Now, I'm sure Mr. Alam is an honorable man, but having just attended a week-long law course, I feel compelled to challenge his argument. Let me try and address each of his allegations:

1. Shoaib drinks alcohol, and has an active sex life: And what's more, he's been noted to ride an imported bike and sing Bollywood songs on occasions. Oh, the horror! Seriously, I fail to see how Akhtar's sex life has any relevance to the doping issue. Irrevocably irrelevant (I love alliterations).

2. Shoaib's been part of anti-doping awareness programmes: For that matter, so has Mohammad Asif. Ergo, fails to explain the harsher ban on Akhtar.

The anti-doping awareness program in this case, in fact, is little more than a pamphlet that was handed out to players at the start of the tournament. Most players confessed that they had little time or inclination to study such pamphlets. In any case, it had no mention of any dietary supplements.

3. Shoaib has been around for the last ten years and was negligent: How does being more experienced qualify Akhtar as being more guilty? This is his first offense, just as Asif. Simply being around for 10 years does not automatically make him more aware of the fact that certain dietary supplements contain nandrolene. Especially if you take into account that it is the first time the aforementioned dietary supplement has been deemed to contain a banned substance.

4. Asif's English is not that good, he comes from a remote village so he doesn't understand: Ignorance does not prove innocence. Such an argument would never hold water in any court of law. Anywhere. And if it did, Akhtar could plead ignorance as well. For he surely did not know that the protein supplement he was taking was illegal. His ability to understand English, or any particular language, is immaterial.

Personally, I think Akhtar's been dealt a particularly raw deal. The whole matter reeks of the recent (disturbing) trend of the Islamization of Pakistani cricket. Akhtar's not particularly pious, drinks alcohol and leads a western lifestyle (to quote the PCB). Therefore, he must be dealt with strictly. Asif on the other hand, is a good muslim, and offers prayers five times a day along with the rest of the team, and thus warrants leniency.

If I were Shoaib Akhtar, I'd be filing a lawsuit against Intikhab Alam and the PCB.

[Inthikab Alam quote courtesy Cricinfo]


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