Warne's career in jeopardy after positive test

"I'm shocked because I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs," said Shane Warne. — Pic. AP-Pic. AP

If the treatment of others caught using prohibited substances in Australian cricket, such as Duncan Spencer and Graeme Rummans, is anything to go by, Shane Warne can expect a two-year ban, which would surely spell the end of his cricket career and his goal of 600 Test wickets (he currently has 491), writes DEREK PRINGLE.

Some glittering careers are brought low by leaked memos, others by sex scandals but Shane Warne's could be ended by a diet pill given to him by his mum.

Warne, the most famous and flamboyant cricketer of his generation, has tested positive for a diuretic he took on January 22, the day before the first VB Series final against England in Sydney. If the treatment of others caught using prohibited substances in Australian cricket, such as Duncan Spencer and Graeme Rummans, is anything to go by, the leg-spinner can expect a two-year ban, which would surely spell the end of his cricket career and his goal of 600 Test wickets (he currently has 491).

Any ban would almost certainly extend to county cricket. Next season, Warne is due to take up a 250,000 pounds post as captain of Hampshire. Although the England and Wales Cricket Board are not bound by any punishment, their Australian counterparts hand down, the ECB's disciplinary committee, who would judge his case, would probably take a dim view.

A urine sample of Warne tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide and amiloride (both diuretics) and the ace spinner had to fly home, to Australia.

A hearing by the Australian Cricket Board anti-doping committee will follow, whereupon his fate will be decided. For the moment though, the World Cup, struggling to rise above controversy that has dogged it for the past few weeks, must do without him.

Australia recorded an 82-run win over Pakistan at the Wanderers without him. His captain, Ricky Ponting, admitted that his top bowler had been "guilty of naivety for sure or stupidity.'' Ponting added: "There's a fear this could be the end of his career but nobody knows yet.''

The Australian players are warned every year on current drug policy by ASDA and a doctor was sent specially to this year's ICC Trophy in Colombo, which Warne attended. While his mother Bridgitte belongs to the generation that used diuretics to slim, Warne does not and it is almost inconceivable he did not run it past Trefor Jones, the team doctor, or physiotherapist Errol Alcott, before popping the pill in his mouth.

Diuretics, once commonly used by dieters and jockeys to expel excess fluid from the body and keep weight off, are not sanctioned by the IOC. According to their website: "All diuretics are prohibited as they can be used as agents to mask the presence of other banned substances in the body.''

Warne, whose waist went from 36in to 32in over a 12-month period, lost 25 pounds. According to team-mates, his vanity is legendary and he was desperate to keep the weight off.

In his statement read out at the team's hotel in Johannesburg an hour before the start of Australia's match with Pakistan, Warne revealed that he had taken a pill prior to that first final against England. "I did take a fluid tablet before my comeback game in Sydney which I did not know contained a prohibited substance,'' said Warne. "The tablet actually dehydrates you and gets rid of any excess fluid in the body and I understand it is not performance-enhancing in any way.

"I'm shocked because I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs and do not condone them in any way, shape or form. I'm proud to be in the shape I'm in at the moment and that's due to nothing other than hard work and looking after myself with diet.''

A leading sports doctor in South Africa feels the diuretic could have been used to mask powerful anabolic androgenic agents. Although these are not necessarily "performance enhancing'' (he points to Warne's careful use of that phrase in his statement, rather than "banned substances,'' they do promote and hasten healing. Warne, who dislocated a shoulder diving in a one-day match against England before Christmas, took just 26 days to get back into Australian colours, a rapid recovery for such an injury.

ASDA apparently informed Warne of his positive test. Admitting he was shocked, Warne immediately informed the Australian Cricket Board, which he did not have to do, and withdrew from the World Cup. Indeed, ASDA would only have revealed the result had the B sample tested positive as well.

Warne has had a controversial career including, in 1995, being fined by the ACB after he and team-mate Mark Waugh were found guilty of accepting money from an Indian bookmaker in return for weather and pitch information during a tour of Sri Lanka.

Four years later he was fined by the International Cricket Council for claiming in a newspaper article that the sport would be better off without the then Sri Lanka captain, Arjuna Ranatunga.

Warne recently announced his retirement from international one-day cricket, he was desperate for this World Cup to be a dazzling swansong. Perhaps his eagerness to overcome the cruel injury against a loudly ticking clock drove him to desperation.