Manager Ravi de Silva discloses: Story behind Kusal Janith Drama
BY CHAMPIKA FERNANDO
May 19, 2016
There were various conspiracy theories. Some even said interested parties wanted to keep Kusal out of the World Cup. Others claimed that he was fixed by a matchfixing agent, after Kusal had refused an offer to throw a match. But Ravi knew nothing could save the player unless they established how the substance came to be in his body After a one-to-one meeting, Ranatuga was convinced that Kusal had done no wrong. Ravi, too, was sure his man was innocent and that the only way to avoid a ban was to prove how the substance had entered his body These would then be flown to the UK to check whether any of the samples were contaminated with the substance. But the ICC suddenly withdrew the case with apologies to the cricketer
It was business as usual. After a strenuous day of training, Kusal Janith Perera was roaming the city looking for a place to dine in Dunedin in New Zealand when his phone rang.
The call was not from his girlfriend, nor from his parents or friends. It was from an unknown number. When he answered, the caller said, “You have a confidential e-mail from the ICC, please check it as soon as possible.” He did not elaborate.
Kusal hurried back to the hotel to read the e-mail. “You have been tested positive for steroids, please return to Sri Lanka as soon as possible,” it said. Kusal could not believe what he was reading. He felt his world crashing down around him. He phoned his manager in Sri Lanka - Ravi de Silva - and shared the shocking news. While he denied any wrongdoing, Ravi wasn’t convinced. Denial was always the first choice of a drug cheater.
Just two days ahead of the first Test in Dunedin, where he had been expected to play for Sri Lanka, Kusal returned to the island in a Singapore Airlines flight. He landed at ten minutes before midnight on December 8. The manager asked him again, “Did you take it?” He replied, “No”. Ravi was still not convinced.
“I didn’t know whether to believe him or not,” Ravi said, in an interview with the Daily Mirror. “Obviously, I knew him for quite a while but there’s always the possibility that a sportsman or woman would take the easy way out. So I was not convinced with his denial.”
On December 9, Ravi took Kusal to meet his former coach and mentor, Chulaka Amarasinghe. “Did you take it?” they posed the question again. This time, Kusal did not respond. He looked at them in utter frustration, as if to say, “You don’t trust me, do you?”
“His expression said it all,” Ravi confessed. “From that moment, I started to believe in him.” The same day, he fixed a meeting with Arjuna Ranatunga. After a one-to-one meeting, Ranatuga was convinced that Kusal had done no wrong. Ravi, too, was sure his man was innocent and that the only way to avoid a ban was to prove how the substance had entered his body.
There were various conspiracy theories. Some even said interested parties wanted to keep Kusal out of the World Cup. Others claimed that he was fixed by a match-fixing agent, after Kusal had refused an offer to throw a match. But Ravi knew nothing could save the player unless they established how the substance came to be in his body.
They checked the B sample. It was a nail in the coffin. “Technically, Kusal was now guilty of the charges and could be banned for four years,” Ravi recounted. “We had two options. One was to admit and ask for leniency. The other was to challenge it. We knew the second option was expensive and that, if we failed, we would lose everything. But, then, why should he accept something he had not willfully done?” They decided to challenge a possible four year ban, without knowing if there would be light at the end of the tunnel. They were prepared for the worst. Kusal, a fearless player on the field, showed no despair.
They met Dinal Philips, PC, a senior counsel with experiencing in representing such cases. Together, they decided on the next course of action. They also met Dr. Dayanath Bolongnage, a consultant chemical pathologist, who, after examining the drug report, said he was doubtful of the recorded levels. He contested the amount on the basis that the levels returned for Kusal were far less than the permissible amount, had he taken it purposefully.
“This was a major breakthrough in our quest to prove Kusal’s innocence,” Ravi said. “In the meantime, there were changes in the Cricket Board, with Thilanga Sumathipala coming in as President of Sri Lanka Cricket. This changed our approach completely.”
Sumathipala, an astute leader, was ready to take on the responsibility on one condition - he wanted to handle it his own way. He met Kusal and asked whether he had any objections. Having discussed it with his manager, Kusal took the SLC’S offer.
“I had 500 percent confidence in Thilanga, not because I have known him personally for a very long time, but because I know he’s a doer,” Ravi said. “Thilanga asked me whether I trust Kusal. I said, ‘yes’. The rest is history.”
With SLC taking on the fight, Kusal had no choice but to suspend the services of his local legal team, headed by Counsel Dinal Philips. “We were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” Ravi explained. “As an employee, he had to respect Sri Lanka Cricket’s wishes, thereby discontinuing the services of our local legal team. I must admit that PC Dinal Philips did a commendable job given the little facilities we have.”
The SLC chief hired one of the top world’s law firms - the Morgan Law Firm - based in the United Kingdom. He got his Executive Committee to set aside an initial Rs. 5 million to fight the case but increased it to Rs 15 million as costs skyrocketed. Ravi was introduced to the Morgan Law Firm through emails. A Skype discussion was set up with Kusal Perera.
“I was pretty much confident after the first discussion we had with the London-based law firm,” Ravi said. “They were very professional and knew exactly in which direction we should be heading if we were to successfully defend ourselves.” During this meeting, Ravi also presented Dr. Jayanath Bolongnage’s analysis of Kusal’s test report.
Having seen the report, the Morgan Law Firm decided to go for a polygraph test, popularly known as lie-detector test, and a hair test to identify the sources of the 19-norandrosternedione reportedly detected in the samples provided on October 12, 2015, by the player. After an eight-hour polygraph test, the report found no deception. It was a major breakthrough.
The result boosted their confidence. They headed off to France to provide samples for the hair test. This test concluded that there was no evidence of 19-norandrosternedione abuse by Kusal during the period of August 7, 2015, to March 7, 2016 (the day of the test).
The lab in France insisted that it would have detected substance in Kusal’s sample if he had been using it for performance-enhancing purposes or for any medical purposes (therapeutic use of the substance). In order to verify this further, Kusal had consulted an expert of 19-norandrosternedione metabolism who had determined that the ratios between the concentrations of 19-norandrosternedione and its metabolites reportedly detected in the samples were consistent with exposure to a contaminated amount of 19-norandrosternedione in the hours prior to sample provision. He also submitted a urine sample and the analysis did not reveal the presence of the substance.
The scientific evidence behind him, Kusal was ready to take on the ICC with three days left for a deadline to submit his defence. His lawyers wrote an eight-page letter detailing the status of Kusal’s investigations and also requesting the ICC to procure certain documentations to satisfy them that the adverse analytical finding was not a “false positive”. He also requested more time to conclude his own investigations.
The letter was submitted on April 25 and Kusal awaited a response. Two weeks passed and it did not come. Kusal and his team decided to explore the last resort they had. That was to check whether the food he took at the time of the test had been contaminated. They were to collect meat samples from the hotel team that the team stayed in, from the supplier and from a regular shop. These would then be flown to the UK to check whether any of the samples were contaminated with the substance. But the ICC suddenly withdrew the case with apologies to the cricketer.
“They were taking too long to respond,” Ravi said, smiling. “In business intelligence, one usually says no results mean good news. And, on May 10, the ICC broke the news that we were all waiting for. This was a major victory for us and a big relief for everyone. The credit should go to Thilanga (Sumathipala) for the role he played”
Ravi also thanked the Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera for his support right through the case.
After ICC withdrew its case, experts were quick to vilify cricket’s global keeper for a costly blunder which almost cost the career of a promising cricketer. The criticism was fair insofar as ICC had imposed a temporary suspension - based on an adverse analytical finding by a WADA accredited lab in Qatar which they (ICC) later changed to atypical analysis - on Perera, resulting in substantial financial losses and mental trauma to the player.
“I must thank the ICC on behalf of Kusal for the wonderful gesture,” Ravi said. “They have been very understanding right through and supported our efforts. They handled the case very prudently and professionally.”
Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka
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