Much is written about the potential damage to the game caused by the IPL, T20, full grounds and lots of money. Some of it may be true, although the future has a way of not doing what you think it will.
T20's big threat is the one no-one is writing about. I realised it again when I heard a county coach saying something along the lines of, all the young players he now had coming his way 'just want to get in the gym, bulk up and smack the ball miles'. It's entirely logical that they should, too.
Some of them will want it more than others, and some of them will do it with drugs. It's inevitable that cricket will have a steroid bust within a few years. It only needs to look at baseball - a close cousin in terms of the required skill sets - for a nightmare vision of the future. For a while baseball was like the wild west, guys getting jacked up and obliterating hitting records that had stood for decades with little fear of punishment or regulation. Ultimately it was only the opprobrium of the fans, who took exception to cherished records having asterisks placed next to them in the books, that ended the freakishness.
Sports like cycling, bodybuilding and athletics have been giant labs for steroid makers for years. The manufacturers and the suppliers and the coaches remain a distance ahead of the testers in terms of knowledge and ingenuity. There are, no doubt, new versions of drugs being used now that will not be detected for years. The last major bust - of Victor Conte's BALCO lab in San Francisco - did not come about from positive testing, but from a whistleblower. Otherwise, Conte, and by extension Marion Jones, Tim Montgomerie and Dwayne Chambers, might never have been caught. Cycling's regulators are now freezing samples for testing decades into the future, when they've finally worked out what they might be looking for.
The truth about steroids is that they work. That's why athletes take them. Applied with knowledge and care to the right dietary and training methods, they are low risk, high reward drugs.
Cricket has never had a problem, and so its culture is not prepared for one. It's a bit like a big house with its back door unlocked and the owners on holiday. The combination of financial reward, worldwide fame and a variant of the sport increasingly reliant on power mean that the drugs are coming. It had better get ready, like it or not.
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