Asif arrested in Dubai with drugs, Pakistan board backs cricketer (Roundup)

June 3rd, 2008 - 10:27 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Shoaib Akhtar
By Aroonim Bhuyan and Muhammad Najeeb
Dubai/Islamabad, June 3 (IANS) Pakistani cricketer Mohammad Asif was sent to police custody in the United Arab Emirates Tuesday on charges of possessing drugs, but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) decided to back the player and said he was innocent till formally charged by UAE authorities. The cricketer was detained by customs authorities at the Dubai airport Sunday while he was on his way to Lahore from Mumbai via Dubai. He was returning after playing for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League (IPL) semi-final against Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai Friday.

“The person concerned has been handed over to the drugs unit of the Dubai police,” an airport customs official told IANS earlier Tuesday.

Dubai police authorities sent his blood and urine samples for laboratory tests.

If found guilty, Asif faces a minimum four-year jail sentence. The UAE, along with other Gulf countries, has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs possession.

The pacer, earlier banned for a year for drug use, could be banned for life if the charges are proved.

However, the PCB said Tuesday that Asif was apparently carrying only some “medicines” and not the banned drugs.

“We are hopeful that the matter would be resolved soon and the whole affair would prove to be a big mistake,” PCB chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi told a press conference in Lahore.

He said that PCB considered him innocent until UAE authorities file a charge sheet against him.

“So far he has not been charge sheeted and we are in touch with the authorities there,” he said.

Naghmi said that UAE authorities had conducted some tests and the substance recovered from Asif had been sent for laboratory tests. He said the situation will become clearer after the results of the tests have been received.

Asked why there was a delay in getting the results of the tests, Naghmi said he could not answer this as Dubai authorities were supervising the matter.

Naghmi confirmed that he had spoken to Asif adding he was hopeful that Asif will soon return home. “If that happens, that itself would be an indication that he is innocent. So there would be no question of taking any disciplinary action against him.”

But if Asif is named in a charge sheet, Naghmi said: “I am afraid he then has to face a case under the laws of the UAE and action by the PCB as well.”

The PCB official said the board had sent one of its top officials to Dubai and also hired a leading legal firm, Angel and Afridi, to manage the case.

When a reporter asked him why the board had Monday selected Asif in the Pakistan squad for the upcoming tri-series in Bangladesh when he had already been under detention since Sunday, Naghmi reiterated that the board considered the pacer innocent till he was charged.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Geo TV, quoting Pakistan cricket sources, reported that Asif had confessed to possessing narcotic substance.

Media reports in Pakistan said Asif was arrested after being trapped by a sniffer dog in the transit lounge of the Dubai airport.

One PCB official told IANS on condition of anonymity that the cricketer appeared to be in possession of cigarettes filled with hashish.

Pakistan’s foreign office said it was in touch with the authorities in Dubai.

“We came to know about the incident Sunday night. Since then we’re working with the Pakistan embassy in the UAE to know the facts,” a ministry official added.

Asif was banned for a year and his team-mate Shoaib Akhtar for two years after they tested positive for the steroid Nandrolone in October 2006. The ban was removed on appeal two months later.

Naghmi earlier said Asif, if found guilty this time, could face a life ban.

According to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, an athlete faces a life ban if he or she is found positive a second time. Asif was acquitted the first time.

IPL sources also said Asif might be banned from future editions of the tournament if he was found guilty.

Various players were tested at random for dope during the IPL tournament that ended Sunday. IPL officials were trying to ascertain if Asif was one of those tested last week. If so, they would submit the sample for re-analysis.

Contacted by IANS, International Cricket Council (ICC) officials in Dubai refused to comment on the issue.

“This is purely an internal matter of the PCB and is not related to any ICC event. The ICC cannot comment on this,” an official said.

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