Keith Piper's career at Warwickshire could be over following speculation that he has failed a drugs test.
The former England A wicketkeeper (pictured), aged 35, is alleged to have tested positive for marijuana during the Championship match against Glamorgan in April and is understood to have been summoned to attend a hearing at Lord's next week.
He will then be given the opportunity to ask for a second sample to be tested. It is not the first time that he has tested positive for banned substances under cricket regulations.
Although the drug is believed to be recreational rather than performance-enhancing, the club may be faced with having to terminate Piper's contract. They set themselves a tough precedent in the case of Graham Wagg (although he tested positive for cocaine, a harder drug) and have left themselves no room for manoeuvre. If found guilty of taking the drug it may also harm Piper's developing career as a coach.
The incident will come as a major embarrassment to Warwickshire. It is not the first time that the club's play-ers have been implicated in such a way and, by comparison with other first-class counties, their record is dire.
Piper and former allrounder Paul Smith were banned from the game in 1996 and Wagg is serving a 15-month ban after admitting taking cocaine.
The club have repeatedly stressed their 'zero tolerance' stance on drugs but their actions have not always followed their words. There are those who believe that the club sent an equivocal message about drug use by signing Ed Giddins during his ban from the game for taking cocaine. Piper's previous one-match ban from the game in 1996 could be viewed as lenient.
Furthermore, The Post understands that the 'drugs policy' the club promised to introduce after the Wagg affair has never materialised. Although a firm was hired to construct the policy, the club have not reacted to the draft proposal sent to them before Christmas.
The decision to release two young keepers (Ian Clifford and Sandy Allen) over the winter appears particularly rash. If Tony Frost was to suffer an injury the club would be without a wicketkeeper.
The allegation could bring a sad end to Piper's superb career. A likeable and amusing man, he made his debut for Warwickshire in 1989 and played a pivotal role in the overwhelmingly successful team of the mid-1990s as well as representing England A. Many believe he is the best 'keeper to play for the club.
However, time is not on Piper's side. Despite his continuing excellence behind the stumps it is unlikely that another county would employ him after a potential second ban.
Warwickshire's victory over Glamorgan may be the last game in which Piper plays for the county. In that game he performed superbly, taking a wonderful catch and completing two slick stumpings, one off a leg-side wide.
Although he also played in the subsequent totesport League match against Somerset, he was then jettisoned to the second XI and has since been openly talking about the possibility of an imminent retirement.
Few could have guessed that his departure from the game might be quite so rapid. n The Dutch Cricket Board (KNCB) have banned Graham Wagg from playing club cricket in the country.
Wagg has been coaching and playing for HBS in Dutch club cricket. Although his ban from the professional and league game in England does not apply, Dutch authorities are keen to be seen to support the World Anti-Doping Agency's guidelines. Wagg is to appeal against the decision.