Illicit Drugs Programme

In addition to the ongoing Anti-Doping Programme, ECB operate an Illicit Drugs Programme which has been developed in partnership by ECB, PCA and the First Class Counties. It is intended to fill a gap in the WADA Code and Prohibited List to screen for illicit substances out of competition.

As part of this process all registered professional cricketers, including the England Women’s Performance squad, provided hair samples for analysis. Hair samples are utilised as they provide a much longer window of detection for illicit drugs than urine samples used in traditional anti-doping testing.

The primary objective of the Policy is to identify players who may have serious issues with substance abuse and ensure that they are provided with the most appropriate course of treatment. Only if the player fails to comply, or commits a second violation, are they liable to sanction and public disclosure. 

Positive tests for illicit drugs following in-competition tests conducted under the anti-doping programme by UKAD continue to be dealt with in accordance with anti-doping rules. Counselling and treatment would still be made available to the player.

Below is the ECB Illicit Drugs Policy and a helpful advice card - click on the thumbnail below to view or download


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‘Legal Highs or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) 

Legal highs, also termed NPS or New Psychoactive Substances, are a group of substances or products that carry the same or similar effects as better recognised illicit drugs. Just because they are sold as ‘legal’ it does not mean they are legal or safe.

They carry with them many of the legal, ethical and health issues that illicit drugs do, some of these are outlined below.

An obvious starting point is that using the type of substances termed legal highs is not conducive to being a professional athlete and the physical and mental demands this brings.

They are not always legal – mephedrone (not to be confused with methadone) which is probably the most talked about ‘legal high’ is now a class b drug (illegal to possess or supply).

The government’s attempts to address the issue can inadvertently cause further problems. Manufacturers may use unknown or new chemicals to substitute those which have been made illegal with no real understanding of how they may affect a person other than they are similar to those previously used.

The term ‘legal high’ compounds these issues by almost adding credibility, giving some sort of security to the user. Many products are also given (brand) names to add to this still further – e.g. Bliss, Cherry Bomb, Happy Caps (the list is almost endless).

There is also no legislation on what goes into these type of products, it could be anything. There is no requirement to be safe for humans and they are sold ‘not for human consumption’. Many are labelled for other purposes, again citing mephedrone, this is labelled as some sort of plant food.

They are prohibited under anti-doping rules. Although they may not be explicitly included on the prohibited list they would fall under the catch all ‘other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s)’. A lot of legal highs are amphetamine, stimulant type substances and so would fall under the S6 Stimulants category of the WADA Prohibited List.

Much like illicit drugs these are obviously not very good for your health and there are regular cases linking to death.