The West Coast Eagles hopes of successfully defending their AFL Premiership took a massive hit this afternoon, with gun small forward Willie Rioli out of the AFL Finals after returning an irregular result on an ASADA-mandated drug test.
Rioli has begun serving an immediate provisional suspension in the wake of the result, meaning he is out of tomorrow night’s win-or-go-home semi final clash against Geelong at the MCG. It seems deeply unlikely that any ASADA-related issues will resolve themselves in time for Rioli to take part in any further finals matchup should West Coast win through.
According to The Age, Rioli did not actually return a positive result for illicit or performance enhancing drugs. Rather, he stands accused of tampering with urine samples being collected by ASADA.
AFL Integrity Unit officials fronted media a short time ago and asserted that Rioli returned an adverse analytical finding in an A sample collected during an out-of-competition test on August 20th, two days after West Coast’s narrow Round 22 loss to Richmond in Melbourne.
That sample returned an adverse finding indicating urine substitution, which is illegal under the AFL and ASADA codes.
Under the AFL’s Anti-Doping Code, the maximum penalty for a guilty verdict for urine substitution is a four-year suspension.
AFL officials asserted that Rioli’s provisional suspension will last until the matter is fully resolved. Any formal suspension handed to Rioli over this incident will be backdated to today.
The Eagles side arrived in Melbourne this afternoon ahead of tomorrow night’s crucial clash.
Huge. Absolutely huge stuff.