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The insider's guide to cricket's drug scandal

By Carlyle Laurie for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- You don't often associate cricket with drugs cheats, but unfortunately for Pakistan two of their players have been at the heart of the sport's latest controversy. Here's all you need to know.

So what's happened?

The latest furore is a two-year ban imposed on quick bowler Shoaib Akhtar -- know as "the Rawalpinidi Express" -- and a one-year ban on the golden boy of Pakistani cricket, Mohammad Asif. Both tested positive for a banned steroid. That's just not cricket.

What were they on?

Both cricketers tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone on October 16, 2006. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) carried out the tests before the team left for India to compete in the Champions Trophy. Both samples of Shoaib and Asif tested positive at the accredited lab in Kuala Lumpur.

What does nandrolone do?

Nandrolone is an anabolic steroid. It's a banned substance that often crops up in drugs tests of athletes from a variety of sports. It provides an extra edge by helping to build muscle, reduce fatigue and improve recovery times from exhaustion. It's not all good, obviously, as it also increases damage to the liver and heart. Sportsmen caught out for using it in the past include Czech tennis player Petr Korda, Dutch footballer Edgar Davids and British sprinter Linford Christie.

What was the Pakistan Cricket Board's reaction?

After the test results were revealed the PCB appointed a three-man doping tribunal headed by Pakistani barrister Shahid Hamid to look into the matter. The panel ruled the pace pair out of all international and domestic cricket for two years.

Hamid told reporters in Lahore on Wednesday, "We gave a full chance to both the pacemen to fight their cases and after a thorough inquiry we feel they failed to prove their innocence. The two players are banned from representing Pakistan in any international match, cannot play in a domestic match under the auspices of the PCB, cannot take any monetary gains and cannot hold any official posts."

Shoaib, who tested negative in 2003 and 2004, plans to appeal against the ruling.

How did the team fare in the Champions Trophy campaign without them?

Despite the odds being stacked against them, Pakistan began the Champions Trophy with a bang beating Sri Lanka by four wickets in their first game on October 17. There after it all went awry with losses to both New Zealand and South Africa.

Will the pace-duo be missed?

They sure will be missed -- especially with the Cricket World Cup slated to be played in 2007. Shoaib is the world's fastest bowler (having bowled at a speed of 100.23mph (161.3kph) against England in February 2003) and youngster Asif had been touted by cricketing gurus as the next big thing in international cricket. Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer told an Indian newspaper, "It is unfortunate and it will hurt us. It's just like Australia being without Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath. It's tough on everybody, the two players, the team and Pakistan cricket. But there are laws to abide by."

Are they the first cricketers to be caught out by drugs?

No they aren't, Shane Warne tested positive for a diuretic before the 2003 World Cup and received a one-year ban. However, drugs of the non-performance enhancing kind have been around the game for a while. England legend, Ian "Beefy" Botham admitted smoking marijuana during a tour of New Zealand in 1984, while five South African players were found guilty of smoking the weed after a win against the West Indies in 2001. Occasional England international Ed Giddins was caught taking cocaine in 1999.


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Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif are the latest faces to earn a place cricket's hall of shame.

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