Don’t Do Drugs! (Or a cup of tea…)

Vaughn van Jaarsveld may not have the squeakiest clean track record as a youth but his move from Gauteng to Durban represented a fresh start and life was looking on the up for man who has always had the talent and potential to make a long career out of international cricket.

Now, having prepared for this season like he has never prepared for a season before, he has to sit out the first three months, banned from playing for a ‘drugs’ offence. Of all the injustices in a game which specialises in injustice like no other sport, this one ranks right up in the top tier.

Since cricket subscribed to the World Anti-Doping Agency and its players became subject to the same stringent rules and regulations which control notoriously drug-ridden sports like cycling and weight-lifting, life has never been the same for the game’s players, most of whom wouldn’t know what an anabolic steroid was, never mind what it did or how to use one.

But the SA Cricketers Association (SACA) has made endless efforts to brief the players about their responsibilities and what lengths they must go to to make certain they don’t get ‘caught’. So what happened with van Jaarsveld? Was he careless? Silly? Lazy? No, none of the above.

The 26-year-old left hander was so serious about being in the best possible, physical condition that he sought the advice of a medical doctor rather than buy a product of the pharmacy shelf. He explained that he was a professional sportsman and that he had to be careful. The doctor duly consulted a WADA checklist and recommended something called ‘Ciplatrim’ – it was not on the banned list.

Just one small problem. WADA update their list every year and van Jaarsveld’s doctor was consulting a list that was 12 months out of date. ‘Ciplatrim’, it transpires, contains the stimulant ‘cibutramine’ – which is now a banned substance. Unfair on van Jaarsveld? You bet.

But wait – there’s more! Another player is facing a ban for taking…wait for it…green tea! Well, green tea capsules to be exact. Ginkgo Green Tea capsules, also to assist weight loss. The man in question is Lions all rounder Robbie Frylinck who asked the team’s fitness trainer to “check out” the substance before he used it. The trainer did as requested – and read the product’s own website which, funnily enough, didn’t mention anything about banned substances!

If these two tales sound like old news, it’s because they are. Both men were issued with reprimands six months ago when the banned substances were detected in routine urine samples. But Geneva based WADA has over-ruled in the case of van Jaarsveld and seems set to do the same with Frylinck. Nobody can, or should doubt the wisdom of cricket subscribing to a policy of anti-doping but, equally, something tells me that banning two 26-year-olds in the prime of their careers for these ‘offences’ isn’t what it should be all about.

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