The coroner of the inquest into the death of Surrey cricketer, Tom Maynard, has called for analysis of hair samples to be considered for future drug testing by all sports clubs.
In June 2012, Tom Maynard, who was then 23, was electrocuted after stepping on a live track before being hit by a train, causing him to die from multiples injuries. According to post-mortem examination, the Surrey batsman was high on cocaine and ecstasy at the time.
The inquest heard that tests on hair samples indicated Maynard, who had been tipped as a future England international, may have been a regular drug user up to three-and-a-half months before his death.
A drug test found that Maynard had taken cocaine and ecstasy (in the form of MDMA) after a night out with his two flatmates in Wandsworth, south London. The inquest passed a verdict of accidental death.
The forensic pathologist on the case found traces of cocaine in urine samples taken after the accident. Hair samples found “consistent use” of cocaine and MDMA in the three and a half months before Maynard’s death. He had also been drinking heavily before being stopped by police, the court heard.
During the inquest, Dr Fiona Wilcox, the coroner, asked representatives from the Surrey County Cricket Club whether they used hair analysis as a method of drug testing at the club. When she was told they didn’t, she said: “I wonder if more consideration should be given to (hair analysis) in the sports world, (due to it’s ability to) look back on the use of drugs for some months…it seems to offer a more reliable test than a one-off urine or blood test.”
“We all agree we ought to implement hair-testing for sportspeople, and cricket is no different,” agrees Angus Porter, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA). However, he added that, ‘the (drug) problems in cricket are reflective of the problems in society as a whole’.
Porter was keen to stress that the purpose behind taking recreational drugs is very different from that of taking drugs that are intended to enhance your performance in sport. ‘The purpose of the taker (of recreational drugs) is different – they are not cheating and it is too easy for people to confuse this.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board is set to employ new methods of discouraging cricketers from using recreational drugs, following Tom Maynard’s death.
The ECB board recently agreed to develop an ‘out-of-competition’ drug testing programme, which will encompass recreational drugs. This is in co-operation with the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA).
A spokesperson for the ECB explained, ‘The ECB’s testing programme applies to all registered county players and up to 200 tests are carried out on average each year. This approximates to around 35-40% of the overall number of registered professional players.’
However, these tests have almost always taken place on match days and are only likely to detect the use of performance-enhancing substances. The ECB have previously tested for recreational drugs only “in competition” – between 6am on the first day of a match until an hour after its completion – with its “out-of-competition testing” only monitoring the use of for performance-enhancing drugs, compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency code (WADA).
Surrey recommended “a more comprehensive social drug-testing programme” to the England and Wales Cricket Board last summer after conducting their own inquiry into the circumstances leading to Maynard’s death. They have already introduced a team-wide anti-drug policy which all players and management are required to abide by.
Cricketers in the past who have been banned from the game after testing positive for recreational drug use include: The former England seamer Ed Giddins in 1996, the Glamorgan all-rounder Graham Wagg in 2004 for cocaine, the former Warwickshire wicketkeeper Keith Piper in 2005 and most recently the Pakistan spinner Abdur Rehman last year, who was found to have taken cannabis during the time he was playing for Somerset.
Drug testing is already in practice for professional rugby and football. The Rugby Football Union introduced out-of-competition testing for recreational drugs for the 2010-11 season, in collaboration with Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association.
The former England cricket captain, Michael Vaughan, supports the proposals for out-of-competition drug testing, describing them as a ‘step forward’. He claims, ‘If you had [drug testing] on a regular basis, there would be a starting point for potentially wiping it out completely’.
England batsman Ian Bell is also aware of the importance of implementing more drug testing. He believes, “Other sports are doing it. It’s important what has happened doesn’t happen again.”
The proposals also claim that any player found to have taken a recreational drug would be offered counselling and support in the first instance, with suspensions only applied to repeat offenders.
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