Surrey have issued their players and coaches with a special set of guidelines in an attempt to stamp out the use of recreational drugs after cricket was left reeling by revelations which emerged at Tom Maynard’s inquest on Tuesday.
A coroner’s court in London was told that Maynard, 23, was a habitual user of cocaine and ecstasy and had taken a cocktail of both drugs and alcohol the night he died on train tracks in south London last year.
The coroner, Fiona Wilcox, ended the inquest by asking cricket officials to introduce the use of hair analysis to test for illicit drugs and avoid a repeat of what she described as an “absolute tragedy”.
This is set to be taken up by the England and Wales Cricket Board, which soon after a verdict of accidental death was returned issued a statement announcing a review of its drug-testing policy.
After Maynard’s death, Surrey conducted an internal investigation, led by the club’s chief executive Richard Gould, and overseen by board members Lord Grabiner QC and Robert Elliott. They concluded the club did not have a widespread drug problem and, according to sources, narrowed its findings to a small “cabal” of players who were socialising too much.
But the report said the club need stronger players in leadership positions – the South African Graeme Smith and Australian Ricky Ponting have been signed for this season. Coaches will be given more training to spot the symptoms of alcohol or drug use, there will be the adoption of a drugs and alcohol policy across the club and more comprehensive social drug-testing policy out of competition.
The most shocking evidence from the inquest was that tests on hair samples proved Maynard was almost a daily user of cocaine. Rory Hamilton-Brown, then captain of Surrey and Maynard’s flatmate, and Jade Dernbach, the England bowler, were with Maynard on the night he died and told the court they had no knowledge of his drug taking.
“We have to think in these circumstances it is hard to know what we as a club could have done given that those close to Tom were not aware,” said Richard Thompson, the chairman of Surrey.
Maynard was not drug tested last summer and testing policy in cricket is that urine samples are only checked for recreational drugs on match days. Random tests are conducted between matches but only for the use of performance-enhancing substances.
This is set to change with the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the ECB in talks to introduce more rigorous testing including the use of hair sampling.
“We have been in discussion with the Australian Cricketers’ Association and they have already done something similar and we think it makes sense,” said Angus Porter, chief executive of the PCA.
“Our concern is additional testing for recreational drugs out of competition needs to recognise players are no different to another member of the population. They are not looking for an advantage in terms of performance. If positive tests are returned we should then be treating it with the appropriate counselling rather than to catch them out and punish them.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency code calls for testing of recreational drugs only on match days but the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union both conduct extra tests out of competition. Any player found to have taken a drug will be offered counselling in the first instance with suspensions for repeat offenders.
“We chatted with the coroner afterwards and reassured her that it [hair sampling] is very much on the agenda,” said Porter. “Ultimately it will be an ECB decision as it is their responsibility but if they say more testing is the thing to do then they will want to use the right tests.”
Toxicology experts can conclude from hair samples if drugs have been used in the past three months. The inquest was told yesterday that Maynard’s hair had contained levels “consistent with the upper end of daily use” of cocaine.
Maynard was the son of Matthew Maynard, the former England Test player, and a talented batsman in his own right. He toured with England Lions the winter before his death and was top of the Surrey batting averages when he died.
He had been disciplined, along with Dernbach and Hamilton-Brown, two weeks before his death after a late-night drinking session in Hove ended with Maynard being hit by a car.
The Maynard family issued a statement through the PCA.
“The results of the inquest do not define our son,” it read. “The fact that so very many people thought the world of him is what defines him as a person. The only people who would judge Tom on the findings of the inquest are people who didn’t know him.
"He made choices that night that tragically cost him his life but his devastated family and friends will love and miss him unconditionally, always. He was a very special person and his death leaves a huge hole in all our lives.”
Key findings from the Surrey investigation
1. Players in leadership positions must always set the very best example, both on and off the pitch.
2. Players considered high risk must receive constant guidance; with a development plan that must be adhered to if they are to remain with the club. Coaches and staff require additional and regular training in order to spot the symptoms of alcohol and drug use.
3. The club should work harder to create an environment where players in trouble come to us first, so we can help them resolve situations properly and quickly.
4. We should initiate a formal process to identify key performance behaviours with full cooperation from all squad members and coaches. This will include the adoption of an alcohol and drugs policy applicable to all.
5. Surrey will seek the support of players, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers’ Association to protect players through a drugs policy with a more comprehensive social-drug testing programme.
By Nick Hoult, Daily Telegraph, 26 February 2013
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