A Pakistan tribunal has cleared cricket fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif of doping offences and lifted their long-term bans.
Akhtar had been banned for two years and Asif for one year in early November after the pair tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone.
The cricketers were exonerated when the panel ruled that they had not had sufficient warning the supplements they were taking could be contaminated by the steroid.
"I am overjoyed by what happened today. It is hard to describe how relieved I really am," said Shoaib. "The ban was like a life sentence for me and unbearable. I was innocent."
Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board-appointed appeals tribunal Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, announcing the decision in Karachi, said the three-member commission had established that Akhtar and Asif were never advised against taking supplements.
Nor were they provided with any international or local publications warning them against the use of supplements and anti-doping measures.
"It is the considered view of this appeals committee by a majority of 2-1 that Shoaib and Asif have successfully established that they held an honest and reasonable belief that the supplements ingested by them did not contain any prohibited substances," the verdict said.
Both the bowlers had pleaded innocent to the charge of taking banned substances intentionally to enhance their performances and recover from injuries.
Shoaib and Asif had argued that they didn't commit any doping offence as they were not informed about the dangers of the supplements they were using being contaminated with banned substances like nandrolone.
The tribunal said that both players had met the test of "exceptional circumstances" as laid down under clause 4.5 of the PCB anti-doping regulations and they cannot be deemed to have committed a doping offence.
The third member of the tribunal, Dr Danish Zaheer who heads the Pakistan Sports Medicine Association, called for re-testing.
"There were many procedural lapses in the notification, sampling, storage, documentation and result management process to make the entire testing questionable and not fully reliable," he said in a written note.
He called for the entire proceedings to be set aside and for the PCB to immediately conduct fresh tests on the two bowlers completely in compliance with laid down international procedures and their appeals then be decided on merit.
Cricket's world governing body the International Cricket Council remained tight-lipped. "We haven't seen the judgment and the reasons behind it, so at this stage we won't be able to make any comment," a spokesman said from its Dubai headquarters.
PCB chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf said he did not expect any repercussions.
"We carried out our own anti-doping process starting from the tests before the Champions Trophy because we firmly believe in a zero tolerance policy towards drugs in sports," Ashraf said. "So I don't think the ICC should have any problems with this verdict.
Ashraf added that both bowlers would not be immediately recalled for the ongoing one-day series against West Indies.
"We feel they should first be allowed to play couple of domestic games to ascertain their form and match fitness before recalling them." he said.
Akhtar and Asif were recalled from the ICC Champions Trophy in India in October after they tested positive in out-of-competition tests conducted by the PCB.
Asif said that he was delighted by the decision and was ready to play for Pakistan again.
"I have gone through a nightmare in the last few weeks. But I have been vindicated due to the prayers of my mother," Asif said.
The appeals tribunal decision means both players are now available to play in next year's World Cup.