AFTER weeks of questions —many of them unanswered — it now appears that the whole issue regarding Hampshire's captain Shane Warne and the pill that was so very bitter for him to swallow may just be best left alone after the Australian was handed a one-year ban for testing positive for a diuretic earlier this month, writes Alex Narey.
Warne had originally planned to appeal against the Australian Cricket Board anti-doping committee's verdict early on Saturday morning. But he appears to have now decided against this — although he still firmly denies any wrong doing.
The decision to do so by the Australian may well be for the best. Warne has under one week to lodge his appeal and for that to have any base for success the legendary leg-spinner would be required to come up with new evidence in a case where answers have been few and far between.
Despite the obvious disappointment at losing their man for 2003, Hampshire may well count themselves fortunate in the sense that the punishment for the offence was expected to carry a two-year ban rather than the 12-month one that was handed out.
It may well be in their interests then that Warne sits back and takes his punishment without taking up the challenge. Rod Bransgrove — the Hampshire Chairman — has continually stated that he and Hampshire will stand by their man and that 2004 will still be there waiting when his ban from cricket has run it's course. So why rock the boat anymore?
Well, Warne would surely want to clear his name for starters, and there is the small matter of the leg-spinner wanting to get back in to the thick of things sooner rather than later. But let's be honest. How many appeals are successful and how can the ACB go back on their decision?
There is little doubt that the ACB -along with the majority of the cricket world - see this as simply a case of naivety rather than the masking of performance enchancing drugs and for that matter the ban itself is harsh. But zero-tolerance has to be applied and this is where Warne has suffered. Professional athletes know the dangers they face. Hampshire's skipper should have known better.
Upon hearing the news, Warne originally said in a statement in Sydney on Saturday: "First of all I would like to say that I am absolutely devastated and very upset at the committee's decision suspending me for 12 months and I will appeal. I feel that I am the victim of the anti-doping hysteria and I also want to repeat: I have never taken any performance enhancing drugs and I never will."
Bransgrove claimed that the whole cricket world would suffer as a result of the ban as the Rose Bowl side must now look at contingency plans as Warne looks set to leave his appeal alone.
"It seems strange that for a minor indiscretion the whole cricket world has to suffer as a result," said Bransgrove. "He has been punished as much for his popularity within the game if anything."
The Chairman will now look ahead to a season where promotion — with or without Warne — is still very much his priority. The arrival of one more new face, depending on the outcome of this week's developments, will simply strengthen a Hampshire squad who will be working just hard for their fallen leader and who also know one or two things about bouncing back when it matters most.