Karachi:Pakistan's star cricketers lined up at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore on Sunday to undergo dope tests two months before the Champions Trophy.
Two years ago, Pakistan conducted similar, out-of-competition dope tests ahead of the 2006 Champions Trophy in India. That exercise ended on an explosive note when key pacers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif tested positive for banned anabolic steroid nandrolone but by that time the competition had already begun and Pakistan had to pull the pacers out of their squad. Just days later, their team was bundled out of the first round.
This time the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is hoping to avoid a repeat of that embarrassing episode. The Board is conducting the dope tests two months before the Champions Trophy and will receive its results much before the deadline for the announcement of the 15-man squad for the tournament.
On Sunday, 26 of the thirty players named in Pakistan's preliminary squad underwent the doping procedure at the NCA.
Shoaib Akhtar, the controversial pacer who failed a dope test in 2006, was among the players who gave away urine samples for dope testing. The samples were collected under the supervision of a World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) representative. Anti-doping experts of PCB and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) were also present on the occasion.
The biggest name missing from the exercise was that of master batsman Younis Khan, who is in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah. Three more cricketers - Yasir Arafat, Bazid Khan, and Azhar Ali - are playing professional cricket in England. A PCB official said anti-doping professionals accredited by WADA will collect urine samples from those players in England within the next few days.
Doping is a major issue in Pakistan's sporting circles these days after their leading pacer Mohammad Asif failed a dope test conducted during the Indian Premier League. Two of the country's Olympic-bound athletes also recently failed dope tests.