Why Andre Russell was banned

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2 minute read

If you didn’t know it already, “it’s not my fault, I asked someone else to do it for me” is not a legitimate defence for failing to tell dope testers where you’re going to be. Andre Russell has therefore been handed a one-year ban.

If that sounds harsh, consider that testing athletes for performance enhancing drugs is kind of important. If you can’t test them, you can’t catch them and doping is almost certainly a bigger problem in cricket than anyone currently thinks it is.

Alternatively, you might think the ban too lenient. However, its duration reflects a general impression that Andre Russell is more of a plain old shambles than he is a devious doper playing the system.

The message here – which really isn’t being broadcast loudly enough – is that all professional cricketers have to take anti-doping seriously. Failure to do so undermines confidence in the sport.

The West Indies’ World T20 win last year is far from soiled by the fact that one of their number could have been banned for the entire tournament, but it does have a bit of a greasy smudge on it now. A bigger doping scandal – or a large number of them – would tarnish the event to a greater extent. No-one wants this. Swifter action in such cases wouldn’t go amiss either.

An effective testing regime is a deterrent as much as a means of actually catching people – although it has to do the latter to function as the former. As was mentioned above, if you can’t test athletes, you can’t catch dopers, so there have to be consequences for repeated unavailability for testing.

Unfortunately for Russell, for the reasons given above, being a bit of a shambles and not really worrying too much about letting the doping authorities know where you’re going to be simply doesn’t cut it as an explanation.


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  1. Speaking as someone who could not care much less about punishing what cricketers do to make themselves better cricketers, I’d say testing for performance enhancing drugs is not important at all.

    This goes double for random out-of-competition tests.

    We do of course have the regime we have, so I don’t think Andre Russell has any real complaints about this. But I’m not convinced cricket wouldn’t be better off looking at the free-for-all over testing and giving it a miss.

    1. To reiterate the point made last week, you allow athletes to take performance enhancing drugs and you create a situation where they’re likely to do things to excess leading to severe and possibly even life-threatening impacts on their health.

      Without rules imposed by the governing body, there is every incentive to do more than the next guy and for the next guy to do more than you.

      1. I’m with yer maj on this. Drugs testing is basically multilateral nuclear disarmament for sportspeople. Not taking drugs seriously is a recipe for an arms race. Legs race. Anywhere-else-you-can-stick-a-muscle race. And ultimately, that doesn’t lead to healthy places.

  2. Why can’t we just let the bowlers use steroids? Imagine a T20 with small grounds, broad bats, and a bunch of overconfident batting goons who suddenly have to face 150 mph deliveries heading toward their groin area. Tell me you wouldn’t enjoy that.

    1. Because steroids kill people? The point of banning artificial performance enhancing substances is that they are ultimately harmful to those who do it (& others are also eventually forced to do it, if the culprits are never caught)

      1. Mine was supposed to be a comment in jest. But to get serious for a minute, I really don’t understand where people get the “steroids kill people” line. Sure, if someone overdoes it (like KC points out in the comment above) they do end up with harmful effects, and in rare cases, death. You know, just like every other chemical substance including regular pharmaceutical drugs. One can certainly call for banning steroids and I have no problems with that. But using blatant fear mongering is different.

      2. The reason people say steroids kill people is because chronic steroid use often causes heart enlargement, which leads to death by heart failure.

      1. Imagine if Neil Wagner used ‘roids! Or if Andre Nel did, and developed roid rage! Would one be able to tell the difference in either case?

        Is it time for my Colin de Grandhomme anecdote yet?

      2. I thought you would say that. I’m not convinced. This seems far too serious a comments thread for a trivial half-remembered tale of a promising yet still-relatively-obscure Kiwi cricketer’s earlier years.

  3. I realise it is dull simply to agree, but I do agree with pretty much the whole of this piece.

    As an instinctive social liberal/libertarian, I have thought deep and hard about the matter of performance enhancing drugs in sport. In particular wondering why I so strongly object to the use of them and therefore support the idea of rigorous prevention/testing regimes.

    I have two main points to my opinion on this.

    In a free-for-all world, I don’t think that sports people would be free agents to decide whether or not to take the drugs – it would become nigh-on mandatory. You’d be letting down your team and your promoters and yourself if you didn’t take the drugs, regardless of the longer-term consequences. I find that thought distasteful. I cannot buy in to the idea that the sports people would in any sense be making autonomous decisions about the matter; that gets the needle [pun alert – sorry] of my moral compass quivering.

    My second point; I really don’t think that the drug-fuelled version of any sport has the same spectator value and the version that shows natural characteristics pushed to their boundaries. I long since lost interest in athletics and (sorry again KC) cycling, because I was so often disappointed in my youth and now perpetually have doubt about the achievements of those who are seen to exceed previous records. If cricket (and/or tennis) were to go down a free-for-all road in the matter of performance enhancing drugs, I’m pretty sure I’d lose interest in the sport/sports very rapidly indeed.

      1. I had to look up snowflake in the slang dictionary, as the definition in my head didn’t really fit this context.

        It turns out that snowflake is one of those terms that has several, somewhat contradictory meanings. Such terms are, for the purposes of communication, worse than useless.

        But for the purposes of education; great. I’ve learnt something. Thank you, Sam.

  4. Yesterday’s ESPN headline was “Russell’s lawyer maintains his client is a ‘clean athlete'”

    Simple fact is, saying it doesn’t make it so. Being tested makes it so.

    Rules, innit.

  5. In all seriousness, these articles have been a shining example of Proper Journalism.

    Less of this sort of thing please. More pictures of Rob Key.

    1. Maybe it is time for that CdG anecdote to lighten the tone. His nickname of ‘Dutchy’, by the way (and this is one of the best by the ways ever, by the way), appears to be solely due to his Dutch surname, rather than anything relating to the use of recreational drugs, which is a great shame.

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