Snooker: Three players fail drug tests but remain anonymous

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The Independent Online
THREE unidentified players have failed random drug tests and will be disciplined by the game's governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, next Tuesday. The news has come at an unfortunate time since the World Championships begin in Sheffield in 10 days' time.

The WPBSA yesterday refused to name the players involved. Martyn Blake, company secretary of the WPBSA, said: "It would be wrong to name the players or the circumstances behind the positive tests before the players have had a chance to put their case. Snooker was the first professional sport to introduce an official drugs testing policy in April 1985. Our procedures are thorough and fair."

The WPBSA directors David Taylor, Jim Meadowcroft and the disciplinary chairman, Bob Close, will sit in judgement in Bristol next week.

A number of players have previously been caught taking drugs. The former world champion Cliff Thorburn was fined pounds 10,000 and banned for two tournaments after testing positive for cocaine and his fellow Canadian Kirk Stevens admitted an addiction to the same drug.

Ian Doyle , who manages 18 players including Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty and Ronnie O'Sullivan, yesterday defended the game, claiming there is no widespread drugs problem. He said: "I don't think there is a drug problem in snooker for one minute. I suppose it is inevitable in today's society that the odd player from time to time is going to get caught out. But when you compare our record with other sports snooker is miles better."

Yesterday's news comes less than a week after Jimmy Michie and Mark Gray were involved in a match at the British Open in Plymouth investigated by the WPBSA for evidence of possible match-rigging.

Betting on the first round match was suspended after Gray was backed from 11-10 to 1-3 favourite. But no further action was taken and the bookmakers paid out.

News of the positive drugs tests surprised players competing in the British Open yesterday where Neal Foulds rolled back the years to reach his first major quarter-final for four years. He upset Dominic Dale 5-4 and now meets world champion Ken Doherty.

Earlier Doherty whitewashed Karl Burrows 5-0 and has dropped only one frame in getting to the last eight. John Higgins, the world No 2, won a war of attrition with Steve Davis 5-1. Ronnie O'Sullivan also won 5- 1, defeating Stephen Lee in just 70 minutes with breaks of 59, 118, 50 and 42. Higgins meets Mark King or Gary Ponting while O'Sullivan takes on the title holder, Mark Williams, or Gary Wilkinson.