West Coast are still reeling from the news that Willie Rioli faces a suspension of up to four years due to an adverse finding for urine substitution in an ASADA anti-doping test.
The team are due to face Geelong in a knockout semi-final at the MCG tonight.
On Thursday, the league’s general counsel Andrew Dillon announced a joint AFL-ASADA investigation would be launched to determine how, what West Coast football chief Craig Vozzo characterised as “something other than urine”, came to be in Rioli’s sample jar during an anti-doping test on August 20.
Vozzo said that Rioli’s emotional state of mind following the news had made it difficult for the club to accurately ascertain the details of what has occurred.
What they do know is they must face the Cats, smarting from their qualifying final loss, without the popular Rioli whose loss came about in circumstances that sent shockwaves through their camp.
“Our players are very emotional, they love Willie,” Vozzo said.
“But we’ve got a pretty mature team and I’m confident they’ll be able to package their feelings for a couple of hours and perform at their best.”
Rioli left the team hotel in Melbourne and was being comforted by family after he was informed of the alleged violation of the AFL’s anti-doping code late on Wednesday night.
The Eagles have pledged to fully support Rioli, who will be represented by David Grace QC during the coming the investigation that could last months going by recent ASADA probes.
“It’s early days … I’m confident that he will get a proper hearing and that he will represented well, but its really hard to say what’s going to happen in the future,” Vozzo said.
“I know he’s a wonderful young man, who we love and respect, and we’re going to help him get through this as a football club.”
Rioli’s provisional ban raises the spectre of drug use at a club whose reputation has been tarnished in the past by accusations of having an illicit drug use culture.
“As a club we’ve had a bad period in the past but we’ve worked really hard for 15 years to improve in a whole lot of ways,” Vozzo said.
“I’m very proud of our players and the standards that they set off the field, in the community and in trying to be good people and will continue to do that.”