A game of more than two halves

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ENGLISH CRICKETERS may not win much these days, but at last there is a table which they lead with impressive ease. According to The Independent's survey of drug use in British sport, no other sportsmen can match our cricketers' capacity for alcohol.

In the survey, which received responses from more than 300 leading sportsmen and women, not a single cricketer admitted to being teetotal.

Seventeen per cent of cricketers said they drank more than 28 units a week (the maximum limit advised by government health experts) and 16 per cent said they drank between 21 and 28 units.

A single unit is half a pint of beer or a glass of wine or a measure of spirits.

If cricket generally places less of a demand on fitness than most other sports, it also involves plenty of opportunities for the odd pint or three of beer, with evenings regularly spent in soulless hotels away from home - though in the long afternoons waiting for the rain to stop or for the chance to bat, they'll stick to tea and soft drinks.

Until recently it was rugby union players who had the reputation for being first in and last out at the after-match bar, but in these days of strict fitness regimes and controlled diets they have fallen well behind the nation's cricketers.

The survey did not produce a single rugby union player who admitted to drinking more than 28 units per week, while only 8 per cent of respondents said they drank between 21 and 28 units. In rugby league, although there were no teetotallers, no respondents said they drank more than 20 units per week.

When it comes to smoking, jockeys are sport's leading sporting consumers. Twenty-five per cent of jockeys said they smoked between 11 and 20 cigarettes per day and 10 per cent admitted to 20 or more a day. As people who are constantly forced to keep their weight down, that result was perhaps not surprising.

Very few other sportsmen and women admitted to smoking. Of footballers, 98 per cent were non-smokers and none said they smoked more than 10 a day. The days when players enjoyed a quick smoke at half-time (as Bobby Charlton did during the 1966 World Cup final) are gone.

Footballers, it seems, (perhaps influenced by the kind of Continental health-awareness that saw Chelsea's Italian player manager Gianluca Vialli give up smoking last season) have kicked the habit.

Admissions of illegal recreational drug use were also low, and among footballers especially, the image of young men with money in their pockets and temptation all around them was not borne out by the results. Twenty- two per cent said they had tried cannabis (about half of rugby players had done so) although none admitted to being a current user. Nine per cent of footballers had tried ecstasy and seven per cent cocaine.

Drugs in sport, page 23