Alex Hales, the England Cricket batsman, this week begun a 21-day ban from cricket for recreational drug use, after he failed a Hair Follicle Drug Test. Before the news became public, the Nottinghamshire star has previously made himself unavailable to be picked for personal reasons, setting no date for a return to playing.
Before the news broke, Hales had been named in the preliminary squad for England’s World Cup campaign, which begins in May 2019. However he has now picked up an automatic ban from playing cricket as he has breached the England and Wales Cricket Board’s policy on recreational drugs for the second time in his playing career.
Male and female cricketers that play the sport professionally in England and Wales are required to take hair follicle drug tests at the beginning of each season.
Advantage of Hair Follicle Drug Testing
A hair follicle drug test will show signs of illicit drug misuse over a certain period — this is normally 3 months for hair samples that come from the head of a person. Because hair growth rates can differ dramatically among different people, these tests cannot ascertain the exact date of drug use.
Benefits of Hair Follicle Testing over Urine Drug Tests
The window of detection of hair follicle tests is much wider than that of urine drug tests, This makes a hair follicle test ideal for identifying regular, long-term drug use. Urine drug tests are best for identifying recent drug use, as the window of identification is normally up to 30 days.
A saliva drug test has the shortest window of detection, normally just hours or a day or two. These types of tests are best used to identify if a person is currently under the influence of drugs.
Drug Testing in Cricket
In 2013, hair follicle testing for recreational drugs was introduced into the sport after the death of Surry cricketer Tom Maynard in the previous year. The regulations are incremental in nature, looking to provide a balance between deterrent and rehabilitation.
Since the policy has been in place only Jack Burnham of Durham has received a 12-month drugs ban. The batsman, who had represented England at U19 level, was retained by his county, despite testing positive for cocaine for a third time in 2017.
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