by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Just days after Dean Robinson's televised interview, small St Kilda forward Ahmed Saad was informed that he returned a positive test for a banned substance. Saad, who said he was "surprised and extremely disappointed", is believed to have ingested a supplement which contains a stimulant banned only on match days. Otherwise its use is permitted.
Saad is under investigation by the League and could face up to a two year suspension. Although the AFL has accepted that Saad took the substance in error, he can still be charged and be required to face a special Tribunal hearing. Under the rules, he could receive a reduced sentence under a no-fault clause in the international anti-doping rules if he can prove he mistakenly ingested the substance. However anti-doping authorities can overrule any sentence the Tribunal decides upon should they determine it to be inappropriate. The odds are against Saad with several past players receiving stiff sentences.
In 1997 Richmond's Justin Charles was the first AFL player to be suspended for taking banned drugs. He tested positive and admitted to taking an anabolic steroid in an effort to overcome persistent injuries. He was suspended for 16 weeks in August, returned the following season but played just two more games before retiring due to his injury problems.
In 2010 Hawthorn's Travis Tuck was found unconscious in his car and in possession of drugs. He admitted to taking the drugs but also came out to admit he suffered from depression. It was Tuck's third strike and he was banned for 12 weeks. He was delisted at the end of the year.
In 2011 former Richmond player Travis Casserly was banned for two years after testing positive for pseudoephedrine. Casserly was playing in the WAFL at the time after being delisted by Richmond at the end of 2009. He said he had been taking Sudafed tablets off and on for a number of years to combat allergies. Even though he and his club Swan Districts said they had always informed ASADA when Casserly took the over the counter medication or was tested, the ban stood. It ended his hope of being redrafted by Richmond, with whom he had been training again. Casserly had originally been drafted by the Tigers in 2005 but never managed a senior game. After being delisted, he crossed to the WAFL and played in the Districts 2011 Premiership. He took a Sudafed before the match and one at half time for hay fever.
VFL player Matthew Clark was also suspended for two years in 2011 after testing positive for the banned substance dimethylamylamine . The original sentence of nine months was extended to two years after ASADA appealed the penalty's leniency. The reasoning was that Clark had accepted a pregame drink, Hemo Rage, from a Frankston teammate. Clark has always maintained that his teammate assured him it was okay under the rules. Clark, who admitted to being angry at ASADA over the decision, has said the anti-doping authority needed to do more to help athletes and educate them about what is legal or illegal, especially energy drinks. He has already spoken to a number of fellow VFL players facing similar bans. Clark contends there was no way of knowing the drink he was given contained a banned substance, saying it was listed 27th out of 54 complex ingredients. He said "It's pretty hard to look up 50 ingredients to find if one of them is illegal." He also said one of his teammates told him it was akin to Powerade and that many of teammates were also drinking it. "When someone hands you something people have taken the whole year you don't think about it ... A lot of blokes are making the same mistake ... Instead of having a banned list, why not ... a list of what is legal? ... you can ... look at that list and find products which are legal to use ... ASADA needs to do more to educate these kids."
Clark had some advice for Saad - to stick close to his friends and they should stick by him. He said having his mates support him was important and he is doing the same for players going through the same ordeal, including one who took it before a training session and then tested positive on game day.
It seems the AFLPA is on Clark's side regarding the dispensing of information on what is or is not legal. According to Association player relations manager Ian Prendergast, there needs to be more clarity from ASADA. He said "We would welcome any improvements to education and user-friendly information for athletes". Prendergast would not say whether he was aware of footballers being reluctant to approach ASADA with questions, but reportedly there are athletes who are fearful that any questions asked of ASADA could lead to target testing.
The call to improve the system is also backed by former VFL player and current senator Richard Di Natale who says the current telephone and online advisory service was sometimes confusing and legalistic. Both Natale and Prendergast believe there needs to be a more user-friendly service.
Natale also said ASADA's dual role of policing suspect activity as well as acting as an adviser and educator to sportspeople was fundamentally flawed. The senator, who is also a doctor and drug counselor, echoed Prendergast in saying some sporting figures had been cautious about, and even deterred, from approaching ASADA, fearing a poor reflection on their clubs and potentially incriminating individuals.
Source: theage.com.au, heraldsun.com.au, perthnow.com.au, AFL Record Season Guide, Encyclopedia of League Footballers
Article last changed on Friday, August 09, 2013 - 7:48 PM EDT