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 by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA

Young Magpie duo Lachlan Keeffe and Josh Thomas still are not completely sure how the banned steroid clenbuterol got into their systems, but believe the illegal drugs they took during what they called "a night out" were laced with the banned steroid. While accepting responsibility for their actions at a press conference on August 10, they stressed they did not knowingly take the performance enhancing drug. They have accepted two year bans as well as a $50,000 fine each. With the provisional suspension being handed down last March after the first positive test was returned, the pair will be eligible to return in the 2017 season.

Collingwood has already committed to continuing to support Keeffe and Thomas but will delist both players at the end of the season. However, the club said it would redraft the pair later this year should they choose to nominate for the draft. This would also allow other clubs to select them.

In a statement, Keeffe said he hoped their mistakes would not be "a life sentence" and that they wanted to return to the AFL. "The past few months have been really hard not to play ... for the club that gave us that opportunity ... We deeply regret our actions, we take full responsibility ... and we accept the consequences. We also hope others will learn from our mistakes ... Having worked so hard to build AFL careers, we are now committed to starting again and we hope to regain everyone's faith and trust".

Afterward, club CEO Gary Pert said he hoped this episode would send a warning to other athletes about the use of illegal drugs and what they may or may not contain. He said "We accept that Josh and Lachie did not intentionally take performance-enhancing drugs ... this was a case of two young men who made a poor decision ... (that) ... will cost them two years of AFL football … hundreds of thousands of dollars and definitely damage their reputations." He also reiterated the club's faith in the players, saying the commitment to redraft them showed the high regard in which they are held at Collingwood.

Pert later said the current AFL Policy needed an overhaul, stating he did not believe the current policy was getting results. He appeared on SEN Radio and said the fact that whatever it was Keeffe and Thomas took showed that taking recreational drugs was riskier than ever and that it was a "turning point" not only for AFL football but for all Australian sports. "The decision to take an illicit drug, which up until now would have held no consequences in some sports and in the AFL seen an anonymous strike recorded, could now result in a major sanction or the end of your career."

Pert, who is a member of a working committee which is reviewing the policy, said change was necessary so clubs could help to prevent problems, rather than solve them. He said the club believes more accountability and harsher penalties were needed. He wants players to realize exactly what is at stake concerning their futures and the consequences of using drugs. In explaining his use of the phrase "volcanic behavior" he said it was referring to players leading disciplined lives for much of the year then heading into the off season with that discipline suddenly gone. He said it was at these times when most positive tests occurred.

AFL Players' Association CEO Paul Marsh commended the Magpies for their support of the two players and said the AFLPA will also continue to support them. The duo will take part in targeted drug-testing programs. Marsh agreed with Pert regarding the now blurred lines between illegal and performance-enhancing drugs and the warning this should send to players. He said "illicit drugs are not subject to the checks and balances that regulated supplements are, it is impossible to know what they contain. They may contain dangerous substances ... they may also contain substances prohibited by WADA (World Anti-Doping Authority) ... We hope the positive from this issue is that any athlete considering taking illicit drugs in the future thinks about the risks to his or her career and decides not to do so."

While also committed to a review of the current policy, Marsh said he and the AFLPA believed, unlike Pert, that the existing policy has deterred players.


Article last changed on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - 6:21 AM EDT

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