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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Cricket 'clean' despite Piper case
By Scott Heinrich and Anna Thompson

Keith Piper
The club considers that Keith's offence is at the lowest level
Warwicks statement on Piper

"If sporting authorities think they're controlling drug use with spot tests, they are living in wonderland."

Those were the words of former Warwickshire all-rounder Paul Smith in 1997, the year after he was banned from cricket for 22 months for taking cocaine.

But officials of UK Sport insist drug users in English cricket are few and far between.

In a week that saw Dermot Reeve, Smith's former skipper at Edgbaston, admit to cannabis-smoking in the off-season during his playing days, Keith Piper's fate has been made known by authorities.

Warwickshire veteran Piper, caught out once already for cannabis use in 1997, was banned for four months on Tuesday following a positive test for the recreational drug.

Last season, however, out of 211 doping control tests carried out by UK Sport on behalf of the England and Wales Cricket Board - roughly half of the county cricketers - only one was positive.

The sole offender was Graham Wagg, again of Warwickshire, and he received a 15-month ban for using cocaine.

A spokesman for UK Sport told BBC Sport: "Despite the latest positive test, cricket does not have a drugs problem.

Graham Wagg
Wagg is still serving his ban for cocaine use

"There is a very low level of positive tests in cricket, but the ECB and ourselves are always keen to develop the programme further if we can."

Wagg, 21 at the time, felt the full force of Warwickshire's apparent "zero tolerance" policy, as his contract was terminated.

Their treatment of Piper was far less conclusive, in part perhaps explained by the fact that cannabis has been downgraded to a class-C drug while cocaine remains a class-A.

The midlands county are standing by the 35-year-old and will offer "whatever support and rehabilitation he requires" should he wish to continue his career at Warwickshire.

In a statement, chief executive Dennis Amiss said: "While it is dangerous to draw distinctions between types of drug misuse, and certainly not excusing it, the club considers that Keith's offence is at the lowest level.

"However, Keith's positive test for use of a recreational drug lets down both the county and the game."

Warwickshire clearly have a public relations issue on their hands.

Revealingly, Amiss spoke of Warwickshire placing "an even greater emphasis on educating players about their responsibilities" with regard to drug use.

If you take the substances and get caught then you deserve to get what comes your way
Angus Fraser

"There can be no excuse for players to be ignorant of the rules or have doubts about what is or isn't acceptable," he added.

It is a line backed up last year by Bears and England batsman Ian Bell, who admits the temptation for sportsmen to dabble in recreational drugs is very real.

"Drugs education is a massive issue and a big thing at Warwickshire. They are keen on it and very strict on it," he told BBC Sport following's Wagg's case.

"It's a trap for us all. But in the end you are not in sport for long and you want to live each day in it as if it was your last."

The issue of drug-taking for recreation against performance-enhancement is an emotive and divisive one.

Ed Giddins, who served a ban for cocaine use in 1996, said: "Keith hasn't done this to improve his standard on the cricket field, he's done it in his own time.

"Is he really a sporting hero? Is he really a role model for millions of people? I'd have to say no."

But former England bowler Angus Fraser has little sympathy.

He said: "When I was at Middlesex it was made clear to us the club had a zero tolerance to drugs.

"If you were caught then you were out. It was as simple as that. The decision was yours.

"These substances are on the list for a reason. If you take the substances and get caught then you deserve to get what comes your way."




SEE ALSO
Piper handed four-month drugs ban
27 May 05 |  Warwickshire
Reeve reveals cocaine addiction
22 May 05 |  Cricket
Marsh criticises Wagg stupidity
19 Oct 04 |  England


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