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May 15, 2001

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South Africa's Nel denies smoking drugs at tour party

South Africa fast bowler Andre Nel has denied smoking marijuana at a party to celebrate the team's test series victory over West Indies.

Nel told Afrikaans national newspaper Beeld that he and all- rounder Justin Kemp were innocent bystanders during a party at which marijuana was smoked after the side's fourth test win in Antigua on April 10.

Andre Nel "Justin Kemp and I did nothing wrong. We were in the same room with the other guys when it happened and stood by them afterwards," Nel told the newspaper.

"People must understand that I would never do anything so stupid when I am on the verge of my international debut."

Five players - Nel, Kemp, Herschelle Gibbs, Roger Telemachus and Paul Adams -- as well as physiotherapist Craig Smith were fined after reportedly admitting they had smoked the drug to team manager Goolam Rajah.

Smith, however, who has served with the team for over a decade and also acts as their assistant manager, has confirmed his participation.

"For every personal indiscretion there are about 10 excuses that can be made," Smith wrote in an internet column on Monday.

"But in reality there are no excuses. It was wrong. It was dealt with in-house, fines were issued and the team moved on.

"Now that it has come out, each of the guys involved, including myself, has to deal with it and face the music, accept the criticism, live with the headlines and put up with the jokes from our mates at the 19th hole."

"But how and why it came out is perhaps to the team a far bigger issue.

"Everyone decided at a special team meeting in Jamaica that nothing would be said about it, that the UCB had issued fines 'in camera' and considered the matter closed and that we were going to move on and concentrate on winning the fifth test match and the one-day series. That is exactly how it should have stayed.

"An isolated case, just like the others dealt with in the same manner on other tours that have not emerged for public laundering and consumption.

"I would like to stress that the dope smoking issue was a one-off case where a few guys got caught up in the celebration of a historic test match series win against the West Indies in the Caribbean.

"I would urge the forgiving people of South Africa to back all the young guys involved and give them another chance to prove themselves as very fine cricketers and ambassadors for their country," Smith said.

Rajah, meanwhile, said on Monday: "We are just going to finish the tour on a positive note and leave the United Cricket Board to deal with the situation as they see fit when we return."

Mail Cricket Editor

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