Colombo: Opening batsman Upul Tharanga has become the first Sri Lankan international to fail a dope test after a random check during the cricket World Cup, the country's sports ministry said on Monday.
The left-handed player was informed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) that he tested positive for a banned steroid, ministry spokesman Harsha Abeykoon told AFP, adding that a national inquiry would also be held.
"The sports minister (Mahindananda Aluthgamage) named a three-member panel to launch a domestic investigation and as a first step, they will record a statement from Tharanga at the earliest," Abeykoon said.
He said Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the country's governing body for the sport, had not yet been formally informed by the ICC. The blood sample was taken in Colombo during the World Cup, which was co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Cricket officials in Colombo said no Sri Lankan player had ever failed a dope test before. The embarrassing development comes amid allegations by a former skipper that Sri Lankan players have been responsible for match fixing since 1992.
Sri Lanka says the allegations of match-fixing are still under investigation. A press report on Sunday said Tharanga had already retained a lawyer to defend himself at an upcoming ICC inquiry into his doping results.
It said Tharanga, 26, has claimed that he was given a steroid by a faith healer in Colombo who also treated other international players.
Medical sources in Colombo told AFP that tests were carried out on at least two Sri Lankan players for banned performance-enhancing substances during the World Cup, which ended in April.
"There's nothing I can say at this stage," ICC spokesman James Fitzgerald told AFP in an email response to the local Sunday Times report. There was no immediate comment from Tharanga.
Two medical doctors with extensive experience of sports medicine were included in the panel headed by sports ministry secretary Udaya Seneviratne to probe Tharanga's case, Abeykoon said.
Tharanga is not part of the Sri Lankan side currently on tour in England. However, he opened against England in their World Cup semi-final and went on to score an unbeaten century. Sri Lanka won the match by 10 wickets but lost the final to India.