"When you’re batting at seven, you have to bat with the tail. You have to bat according to that situation. I have to decide whether to play my natural game or not." © AFP

Perera was hopeful of being fit and ready to play in Sri Lanka’s home series against Australia at the end of July. © AFP

Kusal Perera, the Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman, targeted a swift return to international cricket after officials admitted the analysis of a doping test, which triggered his suspension, had been botched.

At a press conference arranged by Sri Lanka Cricket on Thursday (May 12), an emotional Perera told reporters that he had suffered “tremendous mental stress” after testing positive for a banned anabolic steroid in Qatar last year, but emphasised he always knew he would be cleared eventually.

“I want to start practising and get back to international cricket at the earliest,” he added.

Perera, 25, was hopeful of being fit and ready to play in Sri Lanka’s home series against Australia at the end of July, linking up with his teammates who are currently on tour in England.

“I thank my fans and the board, who stood by me during this trying period. I knew I would be cleared and am relieved that all this is over. I want to get back to form.”

While Perera was suspended during Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand last December, his positive result came from out-of-competition testing at a laboratory in Qatar accredited by the world anti-doping authority (WADA).

But the International Cricket Council (ICC) lifted the suspension with immediate effect late on Wednesday, when it described the test as “an atypical finding” that could not be construed as evidence of doping.

“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,” said David Richardson, the ICC chief executive, in a statement.

“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,” he added.

Meanwhile Kumar Sangakkara called on authorities to change the rule and establish an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ tenet in a series of tweets, saying a simple ‘sorry’ wasn’t going to be enough to compensate Perera for the trauma endured and the cricket missed.



SLC seeks costs from ICC
Separately, Thilanga Sumathipala, the SLC president, said his organisation had managed to get Perera’s test results overturned after hiring a British law firm which advised them to commission independent scientific tests. The tests found no evidence that Perera had consumed a banned substance.

“He has been exonerated without a hearing, but based on the scientific evidence we provided,” said Sumathipala, adding that the board expected the ICC to reimburse the $US 100,000 costs of the tests and legal advice.

The ICC said it was seeking an urgent explanation from WADA and the Qatar laboratory that tested Perera’s sample. However, the Doping Analysis Laboratory insisted there was nothing wrong with their results and blamed a problem with “interpretation”.

“It’s crystal clear there’s no problem. It’s nothing to do with the laboratory, it’s to do with the interpretation, the procedure,” lab chief Costas Georgakopoulos told AFP in Doha.

As a result of the suspension, Perera was ruled out of Sri Lanka’s World Twenty20 title defence earlier this year and was not available for selection for the ongoing three-Test tour of England.

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan board official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Perera could be called up to join the team for the One-day international series that will be played after the Tests.

Tony Irish, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) executive chairman, felt that the case highlighted several issues with dope testing. “We are pleased that the right result has been achieved and welcome the decision,” said Irish. “The case highlights many of the pre-existing concerns held by FICA and athlete representatives around the world around the inflexibility and unfairness of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, the requirement for sports to be compliant and its appropriateness for sophisticated team sports such as cricket. We have voiced these concerns to the ICC over the past year, and will seek to discuss this further

“The concerns raised have included the view that the WADA program is ineffective in safeguarding the interests of clean athletes and is open to penalties being imposed on players who are not ‘cheats’,” added Irish. “However, the game must ensure that any measures are effective and tailored to the game of cricket.”