Is cricket a doping-free zone or has anyone been looking hard enough? | Andy Bull

The advent of T20 and increased demands on cricketers’ bodies and power mean that where the notion of performance enhancing drugs was once far-fetched, it is naive to imagine that is still the case

For all its long, rich history for indulging boozers and gamblers and rakes, one vice cricketers never really seem to have acquired is doping. So far as the sport has ever had a problem, it’s been with the drugs that impair performance, rather the ones that enhance it. Plenty of cricketers have been caught, and occasionally even confessed to using, cannabis, cocaine, even, in one especially recherché recent case, opium. So far as PEDs go though, there have been a handful of players banned because they’d taken masking agents, usually diet pills or the like, or steroids of one kind or another. But almost no one has ever confessed to doing it deliberately. Cricket, then, would seem to be clean, or as close to it as any modern-day sport gets.

Which, conversely, already suggests that it might be more vulnerable than it appears, unless you believe that cricketers are immune to the temptations other sportspeople succumb to. If no one’s being caught, you have to ask how hard anyone’s looking. The ICC recently stepped up its anti-doping programme. At the Champions Trophy earlier this year, it started blood testing for the first time, a move which was wildly overdue because the urine tests it had been using can’t detect human growth hormone. The blood testing will allow it to set up a biological passport system, which will allow it to scan for the effects of doping over time, if not detect the substance or method itself. It’s a leap forward for the sport’s anti-doping programme at the elite level.

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