Star West Coast forward Willie Rioli has escaped with a two-year AFL ban despite being found guilty of substituting his urine during two separate anti-doping drug tests.
While the football world had been made aware of Rioli’s urine substitution charge stemming from an out-of-competition test on August 20, 2019, the AFL anti-doping tribunal dropped the bombshell that Rioli had also tampered with his urine sample on September 5, 2019.
They said that the September incident was a post-match anti-doping test in which he also tested positive to a metabolite of cannabis.
96FM’s sports guy Ryan Daniels gave The Bunch the full rundown on Friday:
Provisionally suspended since September 12, 2019, Rioli was facing a ban of up to four years for the urine substitution charge.
It’s understood Rioli contaminated at least one of the samples with an energy drink.
Rioli had faced an 18-month wait to find out his fate and the two-year ban handed down by the AFL anti-doping tribunal on Thursday means the premiership star’s AFL career is still well and truly alive.
Sports Integrity Australia (formerly ASADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency decided against appealing the decision.
The ban will be backdated to August 20, 2019 – the day of the first infraction.
It means Rioli can return to playing duties on August 20 this year.
He will be allowed to train with West Coast from June 20.
— Nic Naitanui (@NicNat) March 4, 2021
Rioli’s quick admission of guilt to the tampering charges – plus the absence of any intention to cheat by gaining a performance-enhancing edge – resulted in his ban being heavily reduced from the maximum four years he was facing.
Rioli apologised for his mistake.
“I am very relieved that this long process has now ended,” Rioli told the club’s website.
“The stress of waiting for the outcome over a long period of time has been difficult for me and my family.
“I realise I have done wrong things and I have learned from it. I am sorry for letting people down. I am looking forward to putting all this behind me and playing footy again soon.”
West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett hit out at the AFL’s education program, saying it needed to cater for people from different backgrounds.
“The education is the same for everyone, but it may not suit people’s needs and learning,” Nisbett said.
“I think the AFL’s education system has probably failed Willie to some extent, but so did ours, because we pushed this probably more than most because of our history.
“It’s an important thing for us to ensure our players are well educated.”
The AFL Players’ Association expressed concern at the length of time it took for an outcome to be reached and they have implored Sports Integrity Australia to conduct a review of its processes.
“The time it takes for an athlete to progress through this system places significant strain on their mental health and wellbeing, as well as that of their family,” AFLPA general manager of legal and player affairs James Gallagher said.
“Identifying ways to expedite the process and taking a more reasoned approach will also help to avoid the potential situation where an athlete is forced to serve a provisional suspension that is greater than that of the final decision of the tribunal.”
Rioli played a key role in the club’s 2018 premiership campaign and he took his game to an even higher level in 2019.
But whether he will be ready to be rushed straight back into the senior side in August remains to be seen.
AFL ANTI-DOPING TRIBUNAL FINDINGS
- Use of a prohibited method by Rioli, namely urine substitution during the course of the doping control/sample collection process on 20 August 2019
- Presence of the metabolite of a Prohibited Substance (namely cannabis) in a sample collected from Rioli on 5 September 2019
- Use of a prohibited method by Rioli, namely urine substitution during the doping control/sample collection process on 5 September 2019.