After 19 days of detention in Dubai, Pakistani paceman Mohammad Asif returned home Friday, but cricket authorities say they will probe the charge of drug possession that had led to his arrest.
The 25-year-old bowler was held at Dubai airport on June 1 while returning home from a domestic tournament in India, and charged with possessing a small amount of opium.
But Dubai public prosecutors dropped the case on Thursday citing "insignificance" and announced he would be deported to Pakistan.
"I am relieved to have returned to my country," Asif told reporters and maintained his innocence.
Mohammad Al Nuaimi, the Dubai prosecutor who handled the charges, said on Thursday it was "definite that he committed the crime of smuggling and possessing 0.24 grams of opium as he was caught red-handed.
"However in certain cases and for a faster litigation process the public prosecution drops a case due to insignificance and deports the suspect," he said, according to the online version of the local daily Gulf News.
But Asif himself stuck to his guns, insisting that he was not caught with any contraband drugs by the authorities there.
"I never took any drugs or banned substances. I have never used drugs in my life and I challenge anyone to prove I do drugs. If I had taken any drugs I would have tested positive during laboratory tests in Dubai and also when I gave a random test during the Indian Premier League," he said.
He also rubbished reports that drug were recovered from his possession in Dubai.
"It was no drug just a substance given to me by a local Hakeem." Asif said.
He also expressed his gratitude profusely to the Pakistani authorities. "I am thankful to the Pakistan ambassador in the UAE Ahsanullah Khan and PCB official Nadeem Akram who came to Dubai to assist me, and of course the board which did its best to encourage me during this difficult time," he said.
It was the Pakistani Cricket Board that had fervently lobbied for Asif's release. They left no stone unturned though he was banned for a year after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone in October 2006.
He is after all a cherished possession and considered a most promising player.
Predictably the PCB also welcomed Asif's release, saying it was "relieved that his ordeal is over."
"We appreciate the professional manner in which the whole issue was dealt with by the Dubai police, prosecution department and the United Arab Emirates authorities," it said in a statement.
"The drug tests conducted on Asif during the investigations in Dubai were clear and negative for any contraband substance," the statement said.
But the Board also says it has assembled a three-man committee to conduct an inquiry into the affair.
"We want the facts to be revealed in this case," PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf told reporters.
"I have scheduled a meeting with Asif later today (Friday). Further action will be taken once the three-member committee submits its report."