Mohammad Asif, the Pakistan fast bowler, has been banned for one year by the IPL for testing positive for steroids during the league's inaugural edition in 2008. The ban runs till September 21, 2009, back-dated to last September when the IPL imposed a suspension on him. Asif has already been released by his IPL team, the Delhi Daredevils, after a mutual agreement earlier this year and for now the bowler remains suspended by the Pakistan board as well.
"Mohammad Asif was found guilty by the IPL Drug Tribunal in as much as a prohibited substance namely Nandrolone was found in the urine sample extracted from the player during the support period and the match played on May 30th 2008 between the Delhi Daredevils and the Rajasthan Royals at Mumbai," said a statement from the IPL's three-man drugs tribunal.
"The year's ineligibility for Mohammad Asif will be from September 22, 2008, as that was the date when the Indian Premier League had imposed the suspension order, post which the cricketer has not been allowed to play any match."
Asif had appealed against the findings of the drugs test, mostly on the basis that there was a difference in readings of the levels of nandrolone between two samples of his that were tested. The appeal was delayed several times, before finally he arrived in Delhi in January this year.
He subsequently told the tribunal investigating his case that his nandrolone levels had been raised by the use of eye drops that contained the substance, something he was unaware of. He had been using Keratyl to treat a painful and inflamed eye. At the same time Asif was released by the Delhi Daredevils and remained hopeful that the tribunal would clear him of any wrongdoing.
In a statement, the ICC confirmed it had been notified about the IPL tribunal decision though said it would only make further comment after considering "the written reasons for the decision in the matter." It reiterated its expectation that all members observe the ban and that Asif will not be available to play until the ban has been completed.
Though he has been punished, the verdict will finally bring some kind of closure to a traumatic time for an increasingly troubled Asif. Ijaz Butt, chairman PCB, told reporters after the decision that a way back for Asif was now open. "After the ban is lifted, we will definately consider Asif for the national team depending on his fitness."
Asif is, however, still embroiled in another mess after being detained at Dubai airport last year for possessing opium, a case which the PCB is still investigating. But the signs from that investigation have been promising: if at all he is punished, it is likely to be a financial fine and a retrospective ban for a few matches. The board's internal committee will conclude its case, Butt said, at the end of the month.
There will be relief for the bowler though, because for the first time in almost a year, he can begin to think about playing some cricket. His last appearance for Pakistan was in April 2008 and the period preceding that had seen him suffering from a long-standing elbow complaint.
Asif's brief international career has already been blighted by such scandals. The events of 2008 came after he first tested positive for nandrolone in 2006, during internal tests conducted by the PCB. That result forced him to pull out of the 2006 Champions Trophy, alongside Shoaib Akhtar, who also tested positive. Even then Asif had pleaded ignorance over the substances he was using and though he was initially banned for a year, that punishment was scrapped on appeal.
The latest ban still means, however, that Pakistan will miss him during a host of upcoming assignments: the ODI series against Australia, the Twenty20 World Cup and a tour to Sri Lanka. He is likely, however, to be back in time for Pakistan's year-end visit to Australia.