The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has taken strong objection to the recent remarks of Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, about Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif with regards to the doping issue, calling them "unwarranted" and "irresponsible". The board has sent an official letter of protest to the ICC.
Speed, while talking about the ICC's policy of targeted dope tests in the forthcoming World Cup, had called the whole affair of Shoaib and Asif continuing to play cricket after having tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid an "embarrassment" for the game.
Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, Mag4you.com, that Speed's comments were uncalled for and inflammatory. "The board takes strong objection to the irresponsible remarks by Malcolm Speed to a case that is subjudice," said Ashraf, referring to the fact that the overturning of the bans on both players was referred to the International Court of Sports Arbitration by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).
"Both players were voluntarily dope-tested and withdrawn from the Champions Trophy after which the due legal process of the PCB's anti-doping code was strictly followed," added Ashraf. "They were let off by an appellate tribunal after which the ICC has admitted it had no legal grounds over the case. WADA has filed a case over it and the matter is now subjudice. These remarks then are utterly irresponsible and unwarranted."
The chairman also criticised the statements of two international players he did not wish to name who had also lashed out at the possible inclusion of the fast bowling pair in Pakistan's World Cup squad. "I don't want to mention the names of the two top international players from a top cricket country but I would like the ICC to examine whether the remarks made by them constitute a breach of a certain code of conduct."
Shoaib and Asif were finally dropped from the Pakistan squad yesterday for medical reasons. While injuries to one's knee and the other's elbow is the official reason given by the board for their withdrawal, speculation in Pakistan has centred around fears that the duo were still carrying traces of Nandrolone in their body, a fact that could have led to stringent bans had they tested positive during the World Cup in ICC-conducted tests. The PCB has rubbished such speculation.
Ashraf asserted he did not want to get into a public slanging match over the issue but had been compelled to respond. "We have asked Percy Sonn [ the ICC president] to instruct other ICC officials not to issue such inflammatory remarks. We do not want to engage in a public debate on this but since the remarks appeared in public, we are forced to state facts and clear the names of players, the PCB and Pakistan." The chairman also reiterated the board's commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on doping, pointing out that Pakistan remains one of only four cricket countries that carries out internal dope tests.
The exchange of remarks is not likely to warm relations between the ICC and Pakistan, already a little cool after the Oval fiasco of last August and the doping scandal in October.