Azeem Rafiq claims Yorkshire covered up failed drugs test by Gary Ballance

Azeem Rafiq has claimed Yorkshire covered up a failed drugs test by Gary Ballance, citing ‘mental health issues’ as the reason for his absence from matches.

Former Yorkshire player Rafiq gave his account earlier on Monday of the troubling issues of racism within the domestic game, particularly the culture within his former club.

Rafiq, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Barnsley, spoke before MPs under parliamentary privilege at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee hearing regarding the allegations.

In the hearing, Rafiq alleged former England international Ballance was one of many players who used racist language towards him.

Ballance allegedly called Rafiq a ‘P**i’, would ask him whether his family owned corner shops, and whether random bearded Asian men were his father.

Ballance has admitted using racist language towards Rafiq, but refutes the drug-related allegations.

After the hearing, DCMS published Rafiq’s witness statement from his Employment Tribunal with Yorkshire CCC in Leeds. In it, Rafiq claims Yorkshire ‘protected’ Ballance.

“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," the 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."

Ballance stepped away from the game for ‘personal reasons’ in May 2018 – when he didn’t play for three weeks – and in 2020, when did not play any part in Covid-shortened season.

A spokesman for the former England batsman said: "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.”

A Yorkshire club statement from 2020 said: “Gary is currently managing some heightened feelings of anxiety and stress following a long period of isolation due to the Covid-19 lockdown, his own recent viral illness and other personal factors”.

Rafiq, a former captain of the England Under-19s, first stated in September 2020 that he had received racist abuse and was made to feel like an outsider at Yorkshire and that he had even contemplated suicide.

Yorkshire’s response to an independent report into Rafiq’s allegations led to wide criticism of the club, with chairman Roger Hutton stepping down amid the outrage and the ECB suspending the club from hosting international matches.

Rafiq also told panel members he does not want his son to play cricket following his own traumatic experiences of racism.

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