by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Just ahead of Fremantle's NAB Challenge match against Sydney, coach Ross Lyon said at a media conference that Ryan Crowley, although training with the club, was not available for senior selection. He would not elaborate any further except to say that Crowley was unavailable for "personal reasons".
Shortly after that game, it became known that Crowley has been on a provisional suspension since September 25, 2014 after being served a show-cause notice by ASADA. It all began after Fremantle's Round 17 game in mid-July when Crowley was subjected to a routine match day test by ASADA. The sample taken by ASADA was not tested until August 11 and Crowley was notified a week later that the test had come up positive for a "specified" substance. A second or "B" test was done on September 11 during the Dockers' push for a Grand Final berth. The second test was also positive and the ASADA notice was issued on September 18. Crowley finished out the season which ended with a defeat to Port Adelaide just before the notice was issued.
ASADA, which is currently deliberating the cases of the 34 current and former Essendon players, is expected to schedule a hearing for Crowley in April. It was announced just before the Crowley story became public that ASADA would render the Essendon decisions on March 31, just four days before Round One of the 2015 AFL season.
Fremantle CEO Steve Rosich said Crowley, 31, had taken a painkiller not prescribed by anyone at the club. Although the AFL notified him in August that there was an "issue" regarding Crowley, the club's risk integrity committee which includes president Steve Harris, was only notified in late September and was not given the player's identity. The committee was given that information just before the match against Sydney and the Docker board was advised on March 16 as was the team's leadership group.
Crowley has independent legal advisers and is cooperating with the AFL and ASADA. He issued a statement in which he thanked his partner, family and club for their support, stated his cooperation with the AFL and ASADA and said that he was looking forward to the hearing. Rosich said Crowley would be responsible for the legal costs and that the club would only play a supportive role during the hearing. Club president Steve Harris said the club had not previously commented due to the confidentiality rules in the drug code and said "We have a continuing and ongoing duty of care for Ryan, both personally and professionally. Ryan’s ongoing health and capacity to cope ... have been key areas of focus for the support we have been providing".
Leading sports doctor Peter Larkins, who has had a lengthy working relationship with the AFL, conjectured that it may have been a narcotic-based painkiller. In an interview with afl.com.au, Larkins said he had no inside knowledge and that it was "extremely unusual" for a player to seek such medication outside a club's medical staff, who have supplies as well as a list of what is and is not allowed on game day. He also said "There are only a small choice of painkiller tablets that can be used on match day ... you are allowed ... Panadol and aspirin but not anything that has a narcotic component. When you're dealing with reasonable pain in everyday life, narcotic-based painkillers are used pretty commonly. Every day doctors would be prescribing a pain-relief tablet for high-strength pain and anyone who leaves hospital after a shoulder reconstruction or a knee reconstruction could be on such medication for a week.They are not performance-enhancing ... but they're banned ... the WADA rules have said that it's not healthy to mask pain ... If you've got a broken ankle and I'm prescribing ...a narcotic-based painkiller so you can run around ... the ASADA code would say that's bad for your health". Larkins also speculated that it may have been something which contained codeine which is also narcotic-based. Larkins reiterated the risk players take when going outside the club medical staff and that ignorance is not an excuse with players having the rules drilled into them every year.
Should he be found guilty, Crowley could face up to two years banishment, virtually ending his AFL career due to his age.
Article last changed on Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 7:43 AM EDT