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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

St Kilda forward Ahmed Saad has been suspended for 18 months for the use of a substance banned on game day. The substance is contained in a sports drink which Saad said he was given by someone he trusted. He was unaware it contained a banned substance. Saad was tested late during the 2013 season and was stood down from playing pending the outcome of a second test. That test also proved positive and a Tribunal hearing was scheduled for early December. The substance, Methyl Synephrine HCL, is in a sports drink. The drink is produced by a company called Viking, for which Saad was a spokesperson.

Saad said he had used the energy drink Before Battle a number of times on game days but had no idea the substance was illegal until he tested positive. Speaking on SEN Radio after the decision was handed down, he said he was given the drink by "... someone that was kind of like a mentor and a family member ... I had that much trust with him, it was as if the coach had given me that product ... He actually didn't check ... I didn't either because coming from him was like coming from the coach, so it was quite surprising for both of us."

ASADA has already planned to appeal the ruling and will seek the maximum two year ban. At the present, the suspension is backdated to August 20, meaning Saad would be eligible for the 2014 draft. However, that could be nullified should ASADA win their appeal. Should the current ban be upheld, Saad, under a rule to be introduced early in 2015, would be allowed to train with the Saints during the last two months of his suspension.

Saad has had the support of the club from the beginning and he attributes that support in helping get through the events. He also said his controversial selection for the Round 19 game against Brisbane showed fans that the coach and club were behind him. The coach at that time, Scott Watters, who overruled the board, was criticized with the perception that Saad, who had already tested positive once, was not fit for selection in the senior team. For the record, Saad had three possessions and kicked two goals in that game. He has played a total of 29 games in two seasons with the Saints and is hopeful of continuing his career, saying he will maintain his fitness and use his time off to build a foundation for his future playing career. While devastated by the suspension, Saad is determined to return a better player.

Saad is also working to educate other players about the danger of not checking before taking supplements. He has already taken a course on drugs in sport. This is something he did on his own, rather than under a directive from the AFL, after consulting with his managers. Saad said, ‘‘If I can help one or two others to not go through what I did, that’s enough for me."

When ASADA announced that they would appeal for a stiffer penalty, plenty of fans voiced their support in calls to SEN Radio talk back programs. The main contention of many was that the punishment should fit the crime and that ASADA's measures were too harsh. Several fans also questioned what percentage of the drink contained the banned substance and how much of an effect such a possible small percentage could actually have on a player on game day.

Source: theage.com.au, sen.com.au (audio)

Article last changed on Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - 2:20 AM EST


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