Andre Russell has not been caught doping, but he’s been unavailable for three tests in a year. At best, this is moronic and being a moron is no defence.
Russell should face a two-year ban, but we’re interested to see what actually happens. Cricket has traditionally been pretty soft on doping, barely testing at all, but a smattering of cases in recent months – Yasir Shah, Kusal Perera – is perhaps a sign that this is becoming a new ‘thing’ for the ICC.
A large proportion of the small handful of doping cases in cricket listed on Wikipedia involve recreational drugs, but the sport has an increasingly close link to gym culture where steroid use is thought to be becoming mainstream.
It’s impossible to know how many people are on the ‘roids these days but you can be certain that not every physique you see about town has been sculpted on bread and water. The chief executive of UK Anti Doping, Nicole Sapstead, recently told The Telegraph her fears that doping was becoming ‘normalised’.
In cricket, pros are given that many funny blue drinks and recovery powders that the line between food and drugs may become blurred. Christ knows, cricketers aren’t great at perceiving lines anyway, whether on the field or off it. You could understand if a few went to unacceptable lengths in trying to build the oh-so-financially-rewarding six-hitting physique that is increasingly commonplace nowadays.
This isn’t to say that Russell’s one of those, but against that backdrop, you take your tests and nip controversy in the bud. Once there’s smoke in the air, it can be impossible to blow away because you can never really provide conclusive proof that you’re not doping – just ask Chris Froome.
Cricket is of course a game of skill, but the ability to bowl the ball faster and hit the ball harder clearly has an impact. If the latter in particular is becoming increasingly important, it’s pertinent to wonder what lies in that direction.