Cricket: Tharanga failed test after NZ semi

Opening batsman Upul Tharanga has become the first Sri Lankan international to fail a dope test after a random check during the cricket World Cup, the country's sports ministry said today.

The left-handed player was informed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) that he tested positive for a banned steroid, ministry spokesman Harsha Abeykoon told AFP, adding that a national inquiry would also be held.

"The sports minister (Mahindananda Aluthgamage) named a three-member panel to launch a domestic investigation and as a first step they will record a statement from Tharanga at the earliest," Abeykoon said.

He said Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the country's governing body for the sport, had not yet been formally informed by the ICC.

He was tested in Colombo during Sri Lanka's World Cup match against New Zealand, a cricket source told AFP, adding that the ICC had taken a urine sample from him although other players had been subjected to blood tests.

Sri Lanka won the match against New Zealand by five wickets, with Tharanga scoring 30 runs off 30 balls. If confirmed guilty of violating ICC's anti-doping code, the 26-year-old faces a minimum two-year suspension.

Under ICC rules, Tharanga can seek a test of his "B" sample.

Two medical doctors with extensive experience of sports medicine were included in the panel headed by sports ministry secretary Udaya Seneviratne to probe Tharanga's case, Abeykoon said.

Cricket officials in Colombo said no Sri Lankan player had ever failed a dope test before, but current skipper and Tharanga's opening partner, Tillakaratne Dilshan, has been subject to allegations in the media.

Dilshan said in a statement in March that unidentified sources were trying to distract him from his game with allegations of doping.

The embarrassing development of Tharanga failing the dope test comes amid allegations by a former skipper that Sri Lankan players have been responsible for match fixing since 1992.

Sri Lanka says the allegations of match-fixing are still under investigation.

A press report on Sunday said Tharanga had already retained a lawyer to defend himself at an upcoming ICC inquiry into his doping results.

It said Tharanga has claimed that he was given a steroid by a faith healer in Colombo who also treated other international players.

There was no immediate comment Monday from the ICC's anti-doping committee, but ICC spokesman James Fitzgerald told AFP on Sunday that he had "nothing to say."

There was also no comment from Tharanga. He is not part of the Sri Lankan side currently on tour in England, but opened against England in their World Cup semi-final and went onto score an unbeaten century.

Sri Lanka won the match by 10 wickets, but lost the final to India.

- AFP

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