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The AFL has announced that Melbourne’s Joel Smith has been provisionally suspended, effective immediately, after he returned a positive test for cocaine during the home-and-away season.
The league said Smith was tested after the round 23 Melbourne v Hawthorn game on Sunday August 20 and was notified by Sport Integrity Australia last week in relation to the finding. The AFL was made aware of the test results at the same time.
Joel Smith celebrates a goal.Credit: Getty
“It is asserted that a sample provided by Smith during an in-competition doping control test on 20 August 2023 returned an AAF for the presence of cocaine and its metabolite benzoylecgonine being a prohibited substance under the code,” the league said in a statement on Thursday.
“The matter is now progressing in accordance with the code, initially involving further investigation by Sport Integrity Australia supported by the AFL.
“In the interim Smith will not be part of Melbourne’s football program.
“The AFL is unable to make any further comment at this time.”
Sport Integrity Australia declined to comment.
Illicit drug testing in the league focuses on recreational drug use, although a player testing positive to an illicit substance on a match day also triggers a violation under the AFL’s anti-doping code, and they may be subject to a three-month ban under revised World Anti-Doping Agency rules introduced in 2021.
Testing under the AFL’s illicit drugs policy has focused on substances including cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines such as ice, and sedatives such as ketamine and GHB. Both kinds of test are administered by Sport Integrity Australia under the auspices of the AFL.
Under the illicit drug policy, AFL medical directors and the player’s club doctor – but not club management – are told of a positive first test, unless there is footage available.
It is then referred by the AFL medical officer to the club doctor to determine the best course of action, including what treatment the player should be referred to.
A first strike sparks a suspended $5000 fine, counselling and target testing (where a player identified as a potential user is tested more often) but the player – typically – remains anonymous. Upon a second strike, a player’s name is made public, and he serves a four-match suspension.
A third strike incurs a 12-match suspension. Strikes must be given within four years of each other to be considered second, third or subsequent strikes.
No player has been suspended or named publicly after recording a second strike since the revised policy was introduced in 2015.
There are now no official testing results released to the public, which means supporters are unaware of the prevalence of drug use among players, this coming after the players pushed successfully for the AFL to cease making public the number of drug positives recorded over a year in the competition.
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