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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Just one week ago, young Bulldog Lachie Hunter was cleared of any gambling wrongdoing after he and the club self-reported a bet placed on his account which involved the NAB Challenge game between the Bulldogs and Melbourne. In that case, investigators were told by Hunter that the bet was placed by a player from VFL club Footscray. It is still unclear how that person had Hunter's account details and the VFL is investigating.

Young Collingwood midfielder Jack Crisp is not so lucky. He has been fined $5000 by the AFL for multiple offenses. He will also be required to undergo counseling for an indeterminate period. The investigation began approximately three to four weeks ago when it was discovered that Crisp, while playing for Brisbane, had placed several bets totaling $129 involving AFL matches. The investigation came about during a routine annual audit of players, coaches and club staff members. At the same time, five other breaches of the AFL's gambling rules were discovered. Crisp placed the bets before being traded to Collingwood as part of the Dayne Beams swap. One of the other investigations involved a score review official whose account had over 60 bets totaling over $350. The official told investigators he allowed someone to use his account and that person placed bets involving AFL games without his knowledge. The official has been stood down for the season with no word as to whether or not he will be allowed to return next year. The others investigated were several people who hold - or held - minor or voluntary roles at Brisbane. They were issued first and final warnings.

AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon again stressed the "no tolerance" policy regarding the rules on gambling. "At all times, players, coaches and senior officials are expressly prohibited from any betting involving AFL matches or events. The AFL will continue to rigorously examine all betting activity ... to ensure the rules are fully complied with at all times." Brisbane CEO Greg Swann denied the club knew of Crisp's transgression prior to trading him to the Magpies and believed it was an isolated incident which did not involve any other Brisbane players. He said there was no excuse for players betting on AFL games. "Everybody knows the rules ... They get educated within an inch of their life so there's no excuses." Crisp played two NAB games and has been named for Round One when Collingwood plays the Bulldogs.

It is not the first time a Collingwood player has broken the rules. Heath Shaw (now with Sydney) was suspended for eight weeks in 2011 for betting on a Collingwood game. The retired Nick Maxwell was fined $10,000 (with half suspended) after a family member(s) used information he had let slip to bet on the first goalkicker of an upcoming Collingwood game.

ASADA will have its hands full again over the next few months. First up after the Essendon saga is the hearing involving Docker Ryan Crowley's use of a painkiller not prescribed by club medical staff. Now young Collingwood players Lachlan Keeffe and Josh Thomas are provisionally suspended for returning a positive "A" test for the use of the anabolic substance Clenbuterol. The sample was taken on February 10 after the team returned from a preseason camp in New Zealand. The sample was recently analyzed and the club was informed on March 27. A "B" sample test and analysis will be conducted on April 14. Should that second test come up positive, both will face the Tribunal.

Clenbuterol is not classified as a specified substance under the AFL Anti-Doping prohibited list, nor is it approved for human use in Australia even though it can be used to treat asthma. It is legal in Australia as a veterinarian medication which is often used on horses with breathing problems. It can also be used by vets as a muscle relaxant. Clenbuterol is also known to reduce fat and promote weight loss. Thus it is considered performance-enhancing and is therefore banned by WADA. It is well-known in the world of professional sport and became prominent in 2010 when Spanish cyclist, Alberto Contador, was stripped of his title and banned for two years for testing positive during the Tour de France. Contador claimed he had eaten contaminated meat, but the excuse failed. The same defense was used by another cyclist, Australian Michael Rogers, during the 2014 Beijing competition and he was cleared.

According to Dr Peter Larkins, Clenbuterol has been used by bodybuilders, to reduce body fat and also to improve muscle strength. Larkins says it has been used illegally in world sport for several decades. The IOC also has a ban on the substance. Because it can only be prescribed to vets, Larkins says the only ways to obtain it would be from a veterinary supply or on the black market. Larkins said that although he didn't know the details at Collingwood, he did say it would be "pretty dumb" to use something such as this to prepare.

While the AFLPA wanted to keep the names of the players confidential, Collingwood preferred to make it public to avoid a shadow hanging over the rest of the playing group. Keeffe and Thomas, who have been best friends since joining the club, have denied taking the drug and, according to Coach Nathan Buckley, are “shell-shocked” by the allegations. Buckley said the pair, who have been "joined at the hip" since coming to the club, were "cleanskinned" and would be at the bottom of his list of anyone who would even consider taking banned substances. He, CEO Gary Pert and football director Neil Balme all had nothing but praise for the duo and said the club is devastated and shocked by the news. Buckley described the two players as decent and upstanding. Buckley also said the pair have endured injury problems in their brief careers but they have been doing the right thing by working hard to recover and get on with their careers.

Football director Neil Balme said during a media briefing he could see no reason why Keeffe and Thomas would take the drug, pointing out the fact they are already "quite lean". He and CEO Gary Pert planned to meet with the players after the duo met with their lawyers. Pert said the club had "conducted a forensic audit of its tightly controlled dietary and nutrition program ... and is completely satisfied the positive results are in no way connected to the program." It came out early Tuesday that Keeffe and Thomas think the positive test may be the result of a steak dinner while they were in New Zealand (similar to the aforementioned cyclists). Pert also said the club's main concern was the players and they were not pushing for answers since, according to Pert, ASADA showed up on the players' doorstep. "It was more about supporting the players, making sure they have the right people around them and making sure that they have that (legal) representation."

Former club captain Nick Maxwell echoed Buckley's sentiments. Speaking on SEN Radio, he said Thomas and Keeffe were fine young men and that he, too, was absolutely shocked at the news.

Keeffe, 24, joined Collingwood in 2009 after playing soccer as a junior. His work rate and competitiveness impressed the club and he debuted in 2011. After establishing himself in defense the following season, his knee buckled in a match against Adelaide requiring a reconstruction. He did not return until midway through 2013 but has not been at his best since the surgery. Once a member of the leadership group, Keeffe has played just 40 games.

Thomas, 24, is a midfielder who excels at stoppages but has had a horror run with leg injuries since being drafted in 2009. He had to wear a moon boot for almost nine months until midway through 2011, finally succumbing to surgery to repair stress related injuries. He debuted in 2013 and has played 32 games. HIs 2014 post-season trip to the USA was cut short when he was forced to return to Australia for surgery on his hand after being mugged in New York.

Source: afl.com.au, sen.com.au

Article last changed on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 10:04 PM EDT


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