Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah has been banned for three months after pleading guilty for a failed dope test last year, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said Sunday.
"Shah has been suspended from all cricket-related activities for three months after pleading guilty to breaching Article 2.1 of the ICC Anti-Doping Code," the ICC announced in a statement.
The 29-year-old's urine sample, provided in an in-competition test conducted on Nov. 13, was found to contain the presence of chlortalidone and he was subsequently provisionally suspended in December.
Chlortalidone is a diuretic drug which features in the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list of prohibited substances.
Shah pleaded guilty to the charge and said he had mistakenly taken his wife's blood pressure medication which contained the banned substance.
"While making the decision, the ICC accepted that Shah had inadvertently ingested the 'specified substance' for therapeutic reasons, specifically to treat his blood pressure," the ICC said in a statement.
"He was able to satisfy the ICC through evidence and submissions prepared on his behalf by the Pakistan Cricket Board that he had no intention to enhance his sporting performance or to mask the use of another performance enhancing substance."
Shah's sample was taken in Abu Dhabi which hosted the second match of Pakistan's one-day series against England and the ban will rule him out of the World Twenty20 in India, starting from March 8.
A wily leg-spinner who has bagged 76 wickets in 12 tests, Shah has also played 15 one-dayers and can return to playing cricket again on March 27.
Shah said his case should be a reminder for all cricketers that they have to take responsibility and be extra cautious towards what goes into their body.
"I assure all fans and followers of the Pakistan cricket team that I have never taken a performance enhancing substance nor have I ever had the intent of masking any such substance," he said.
"I have always been careful to check my medication with doctors and medical support staff to ensure it does not contain any substance on the prohibited list.
"However, I acknowledge that I should have taken extra precautions to ensure that my blood pressure medication was stored separately from my wife's medication so that there was no possibility of my wife's medication being mistaken for my own."
Shah has emerged as a match-winner for Pakistan in Tests after ace spinner Saeed Ajmal lost form due to having to remodel an illegal bowling action.
"Shah admitted the violation and a three-month suspension has been imposed, backdated to 27 December 2015, the day when he was provisionally suspended. Shah will, therefore, be eligible to return to cricket on 27 March 2016."
The ICC said it accepted that the doping offence had been inadvertent as the medication had been taken "for therapeutic reasons, specifically to treat his blood pressure.
"He was able to satisfy the ICC through evidence and submissions prepared on his behalf by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) that he had no intention to enhance his sporting performance or to mask the use of another performance enhancing substance.
"He had, instead, mistakenly taken his wife's blood pressure medication that was identical in appearance to his own but which contained the prohibited substance chlortalidone."
The head of the Pakistan Cricket Board's medical panel, Sohail Salim, said he was satisfied with the ICC decision.
"We are happy that we made a genuine reply in Shah's case," Salim told AFP.
"At the time of Shah's suspension a lot of former cricketers, experts and doctors were giving their opinions without any knowledge and that was disturbing."
Under anti-doping rules Shah could have been hit with a two to four year ban.
Shah said he was delighted at the news.
"I am delighted and thankful to Almighty," Shah told AFP by phone from Swani, Pakistan. "I was attending a religious congregation and was waiting for this news with bated breath.
"The most difficult phase of my life is over now," said Shah. "I have been bowling in the nets so as soon as I am eligible to play I will get into the groove.
"The target, of course is to be part of Pakistan's tour of England where my team will need me," said Shah of Pakistan's tour where they play four Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 starting in July.
Shah has 76 wickets in 12 Tests. His 12 wickets helped Pakistan beat Australia 2-0 in 2014 and took 25 in 2-1 win over Sri Lanka last year.