Former spinner says Yorkshire covered up alleged failed drug test by Ballance

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Azeem Rafiq has accused Yorkshire of covering up for Gary Ballance over an alleged failed drug test.

Rafiq also claimed his old county had allowed Ballance, a former captain at Headingley, to miss drug tests. The claims have been denied by a representative of the ex-England batter.

Whistleblower Rafiq laid bare the full extent of his experience of racism in cricket during an appearance in front of MPs with Tuesday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing offering him the chance to speak with the protection of parliamentary privilege.

It allowed Rafiq to speak freely without the burden of legal pitfalls and this was also the case for his written statement, which was published on Tuesday.

The 57-page document was produced for the Leeds Employment Tribunal between Rafiq and Yorkshire and under the section ‘other forms of discriminatory treatment at YCCC’ it alleges the county covered for Ballance while he was dealing with drug issues.

“Over the years, YCCC protected Gary Ballance with respect to his drug and alcohol issues, allowing him to miss drug hair sample tests to avoid sanctions,” Rafiq’s witness statement read.

“When he failed a recreational drug test and was forced to miss some games, the club informed the public he was missing games because he was struggling with anxiety and mental health issues.”

Rafiq added: “What I learned over the years was that incidents with white players are covered up and a positive media spin is put out to protect them, yet in the case of Pakistani players, we are criticised unfairly and everything is put on show for the media to attack us with no protection afforded by YCCC.”

The former off spin bowler made the allegations against Yorkshire to highlight the different way he was treated, with reference to an incident in 2011 where he was sent home from an Under-19 series.

A representative of Ballance denied Rafiq’s claims and told the PA news agency: “As stated in his previous statement Gary does not intend on making any further public statement regarding Azeem’s allegations, however, he must correct the record relating to the egregious false allegations made in Azeem’s Witness Statement that Gary had “drug and alcohol issues” and “miss[ed] drug hair sample tests to avoid sanctions.

“These allegations are categorically untrue and should never have been made.

“Gary has never, to his knowledge, missed a drugs test and would not do so.”

In August 2020, Yorkshire revealed Ballance was unavailable for selection while he managed “some heightened feelings of anxiety and stress” and stated they were “unable to put any timescales on his return to playing at this time.”

The PA news agency has contacted UKAD and Yorkshire for a comment.

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