Fremantle midfielder Ryan Crowley’s punishment for testing positive to a prohibited substance late last season has been handed down, and it has set a strong precedent for the AFL moving forward.
Thursday June 11, the AFL Anti-Doping tribunal announced that the 31-year-old would be ineligible to play until September 24th of 2015, with a lengthy 12-month ban being backdated eight months to when his initial positive test was submitted.
The ban comes after Crowley tested positive for an Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) prohibited substance on a match-day sample taken prior to the Dockers round 17 game against Greater Western Sydney last year.
It is believed that the infamous Fremantle tagger took a pain-killer that contained methadone, the substance in question, in the days entering the match for back pains without having sought guidance from club staff.
Methadone is on ASADA’s banned substance list for match day consumption, however allowed on non-match days, which entitled Crowley to complete last season’s campaign before official proceedings began in March.
Crowley has not been eligible for selection in any of Fremantle’s matches this season.
The ban has led to heavy speculation circling Crowley’s career, with the 188-gamer coming out of contract at the end of this season, while Fremantle have also begun to play a more free-flowing brand of footy, leading to a ladder-topping start to the season with him noticeably absent.
From Crowley’s perspective he is aware of the predicament he has caused himself and regrets having put his career in the balance over his own negligence.
“I am deeply remorseful and disappointed with the mistake that I made last year,” Crowley said in a statement after his punishment was handed down.
“I genuinely never intentionally meant to do the wrong thing.
“In the 13 years I have been playing for Fremantle I have never wanted to jeopardise my career and position at the club, or let any of my team mates or fans down. And for that I hope you will accept my deepest and sincerest apology.”
The ban has made a strong statement toward the leagues Anti-doping stance, in terms of competitive advantage, the drug was not used to better the midfielder’s performance, however was still an obvious breach of the rules.
To enforce a punishment that could potentially cost a player his career, over non-performance enhancing intentions, is a definitive example of an attempt to stamp-out the drug issues that have slowly embedded the competition over the better part of five years.
AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan is at ease with the Crowley verdict as he believes it is a progression toward a cleaner AFL, while not going as he believes “too far.”
“I think missing a year of footy feels okay,” McLachlan told 3AW radio.
“Also, the fact that ASADA says they aren’t going to appeal is about right.”
Without becoming drastic or definitively career ending, the Anti-doping tribunal has made an example of Crowley that is ultimately necessary.
After all, the last thing anyone wants to see is more drawn out and disreputable processes like the Essendon debacle.
To prevent these situations, players and clubs must be aware that if someone is caught doping, no matter the circumstance, they will be held accountable.
With this in mind, expect similarly harsh punishments from the hearings of Collingwood pair Lachlan Keeffe and Josh Thomas, who also tested positive to unintentionally ingesting banned substances earlier this year.
ASADA chief executive Ben Mcdevitt has foreshadowed this ruling when he recognised that Crowley did not intentionally violate the code, but his case should serve as a warning to others.
“This case illustrates the dangers of inadvertent doping,” he said in a statement.
“Athletes need to be careful about what they take, even if they don’t intend to cheat.”
ASADA and the AFL will continue to stamp out a hard-line on prohibited substances that will ultimately lead to a cleaner and more admirable league.
The ban may be the culmination of an unlucky turn of events for Crowley, but it is necessary action in order to progress the competition past the dark, drug days of past.
By Juan Estepa (@EstepaJ)