Lankan wicketkeeper's provisional suspension lifted after WADA lab's findings are insufficient to prove doping violation
Dubai: Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kusal Perera has been declared free to return to cricket after the International Cricket Council lifted his provisional suspension for an anti-doping violation.
SL cricketer Kusal Perera (right) is greeted by Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara as Sri Lankan Cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala (centre) looks on during a press conference in Colombo yesterday. Pic/AFP
Perera's suspension came in December 2015, after an out-of-competition urine sample tested positive for the anabolic steroid 19-Norandrostenedione, while his B sample too was found to contain the substance.
However, according to an ICC statement, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory in Qatar on Wednesday withdrew its "adverse analytical finding" after an independent review by the ICC said the results from Perera's samples were "not sustainable."
The ICC statement said: "Whilst the independent expert concluded that the Qatar laboratory had correctly identified 19-Norandrostenedione in the samples, that expert's view was that an adverse analytical finding by the laboratory was not sustainable, because, for various scientific and technical reasons, it could not be ruled out that the 19-Norandrostenedione was produced naturally in the player's body and/or formed in the samples after the player provided them."
At the time of his initial suspension, Perera was recalled from the then-upcoming tour of New Zealand, while the 25-year-old is not part of the Sri Lanka touring party to England this month.
ICC chief executive David Richardson said: "Had it not been for the diligence of Mr Perera's legal team and the ICC's own desire to uncover the explanation for the reported findings, the consequences could well have been different, and that should be of concern to all involved in the fight against doping.
'We commend Perera'
"We regret what Mr Perera has had to endure, and would like to commend him for the manner in which he has conducted himself throughout this period. We wish to make it clear that there is no evidence that Mr Perera has ever used performance-enhancing substances and we wish him well in his future cricketing endeavours."
Perera, who made his Sri Lanka debut in 2013 and has three Tests and 51 one-day internationals under his belt, could have faced a lengthy ban if the anti-doping violation had been proven.
In addition to bilateral series, Perera also ended up missing the ICC World Twenty20 for Sri Lanka. While the ICC has cleared the wicketkeeper-batsman to return to cricket with immediate effect, Richardson was left with questions over the process.
"The South African said in the statement: "Cricket is proud of its compliance with the structures and systems required by WADA and takes comfort from the fact that samples are tested in accordance with WADA-approved standards and at WADA-accredited laboratories. "However, the ICC is troubled in this case by the fact that the Qatar laboratory has issued an adverse analytical finding that has then had to be withdrawn and replaced with an atypical finding.
"Whilst I am confident that this is an isolated incident in respect of tests commissioned by the ICC, we are seeking an urgent explanation from WADA and the laboratory in an attempt to understand what has transpired and what will be done to ensure it does not happen again.
Kusal Perera targeted a swift return to international cricket. An emotional Perera told reporters he had suffered "tremendous mental stress" after testing positive for a banned anabolic steroid in Qatar last year but insisted he always knew he would be eventually cleared.
"I had not done anything wrong, but I went through tremendous mental stress. I want to start practising and get back to international cricket at the earliest."
The 25-year-old said he was hopeful of being fit and ready to play in the home series against Australia in July.