(Trinidad Guardian) Drug cheats can expect to face the full penalty when the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) starts regular testing of players involved in regional cricket next season. This is the warning issued by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ayanna Cooper, the WICB’s Player Relations Officer, who is based at the Sagicor High Performance Centre in Barbados. She was speaking at the time to a gathering of top local coaches and co-ordinators of the T&T Cricket Board’s All Age Group Coaching Programme on Sunday at the National Cricket Centre in Balmain Couva. Cooper said that as far as she was aware there is no evidence of systematic drug cheating in WI cricket but that a problem may exist with the use of recreational drugs such as marijuana and she called on the national coaches to join the anti-doping fight in earnest.
“Top cricketers do not use performance enhancing drugs but may run afoul of the anti-doping regulations when they carelessly use common cold remedies or take medication for allergies and the like,” said Cooper. “Medicine taken for illness is permissible but its use must be authorized by a competent authority and supported by authentic documents,” Cooper said. She cautioned that cricketers must be very careful what they put in their bodies since it could impact on their future. Cooper said educating the youngsters of the grave consequences of doping to enhance their athletic performances was the only way to maintain the integrity of the sport and avoid embarrassment and humiliation of the regional cricket community. “We are depending on coaches like yourself who deal with the kids at a very young age to understand the negative effects of doping and we are hoping to spread the message all across the region. The youngsters must be sensitised at a young age,” said Cooper.
The WICB official said that in the past when a player was caught with illegal substances in their blood they were not harshly penalized but all efforts were made to reintegrate them through counseling and educational programmes. However this is all likely to change when the WICB begins to comply fully with WADA, the world anti-doping authority and starts out of competition testing next season on not only on those playing at the highest level of the game but cricketers across the board and possibly from the Under-13 level up. Cooper suggested that the coaches collect all the information they can on the anti-doping regulations by visiting the WICB website and start educating the youngsters since it is the policy to “Educate first and test after.” She said the top players get tested all the time especially when they travel for competitions overseas but that at the regional level the rules are not rigidly enforced. But all that is likely to be a thing of the past as funds become available to sustain the anti-doping effort.
The seminar on Sunday was organized by Kumar Rampat, the WICB territorial development officer and project officer in T&T for the Digicel Grassroots Cricket Programme. Also addressing the coaches and co-ordinators was national cricket team coach Kelvin Williams and Roland Sampath, manager of the Under-19 team currently preparing for the regional championship in Guyana. The All Age Group Coaching Programme starts on July 16 in the eight zones affiliated to the T&TCB and in Tobago. Each zone will have ten centres and the camp will run for two weeks specifically targeting the Under-13 and Under-13 age groups.