The KNCB Appeals Committee has reduced the penalty imposed on Dutch international and VRA Amsterdam off-spinner Adeel Raja for a drugs offence to an eight-month suspension, with the result that he will miss only the first two matches in this season’s Hoofdklasse.

On 9 September last year, after the Hoofdklasse final, Raja tested positive for the banned substance finasteride, which he had been taking as a measure against hair loss. He had received a dispensation from the KNCB, but when this expired on 1 July 2007 he had omitted to apply for an extension.

Finasteride is banned because it can be used as a masking agent to disguise the use of steroids. There was no suggestion that Raja had employed any other banned agent, or that he had derived any advantage from his use of finasteride.

The KNCB Disciplinary Committee had imposed a two year suspension, with the second year suspended, meaning that Raja would have been unable to take any part in the 2008 domestic season.

Admitting that he had broken the rules, Raja argued at appeal that the penalty imposed was disproportionately severe given the nature of the offence. He pointed out that the suspension had already resulted in his being unable to take part in the national side’s current tour to Namibia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Appeals Committee essentially accepted this argument, noting that Raja’s offence was really in the nature of an administrative error. The exceptional circumstances of the case provided grounds for a lesser penalty than that prescribed by the World Anti-Doping Code, and the Committee accordingly reduced the suspension to an eight-month period, ending on 9 May 2008.

This means that Raja will be unable to play against Excelsior ’20 and VOC Rotterdam in VRA’s two opening matches of the Hoofdklasse competition, but will be available thereafter. He will also come into the reckoning for The Netherlands’ international programme this summer, and for the World Cup qualifier early next year.