West Coast will have the option of unleashing Willie Rioli on an AFL field in late 2021 after the club and the suspended forward finally received clarity on his doping ban.
The AFL on Thursday confirmed Rioli, who played in West Coasts 2018 premiership, had been officially handed a two-year ban by the league anti-doping tribunal after allegedly tampering with two samples, as well as testing positive to cannabis, during drug tests in August and September 2019.
As Rioli has already served 18 months of the backdated suspension, hell be eligible for Eagles selection from August 20. Hes also been given permission to train with West Coast from June 20.
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While most of the 2021 AFL fixture remains floating, the final round of the home and away season is scheduled to be played from Friday August 20 to Sunday August 22, meaning Rioli could play in Round 23.
The AFL said relevant appeal rights have now expired, meaning the outcome is final. SEN reported Rioli was told several weeks ago hed been given a two-year ban, but remained quiet in case Sport Integrity Australia appealed.
The Eagles were hoping they wouldve known Riolis fate by January after the suspended Eagle finally fronted an AFL anti-doping tribunal the previous month.
Willie Rioli hasnt played an AFL game since 2019. Picture: Michael WillsonSource: Supplied
In a statement on Thursday, the AFL confirmed three breaches of the leagues anti-doping code had been proven largely on admissions made by Mr Rioli:
1. Use of a prohibited method by Rioli, namely urine substitution, on August 20, 2019;
2. Presence of the metabolite of a prohibited substance (namely cannabis) in his system on September 5, 2019;
3. Use of a prohibited method by Rioli, namely urine substitution, September 5, 2019.
However the tribunal cut the maximum suspension period (four years) to two years on the basis of the Prompt Admission defence, as well as the argument Rioli had no intention to cheat by gaining a performance-enhancing effect.
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The tribunal said as a result of the substantial delays in the hearing process, as well as other doping control aspects that were not attributable to Rioli, the Eagles official backdated ban was deemed to have begun on August 20, 2019 the date his initial sample was collected.
I am very relieved that this long process has now ended, Rioli said. The stress of waiting for the outcome over a long period of time has been difficult for me and my family.
Willie Rioli has kicked 46 goals in 38 AFL games. Picture: Richard WainwrightSource: AAP
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.
I would also like to thank David Grace QC, West Coast Eagles football club, my management and the AFLPA for their support throughout this process.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson in January said he absolutely had concerns about the Riolis AFL future, but the two-year ban is a positive development for Rioli and the Eagles.
Eagles chief executive Trevor Nisbett said the club was pleased ordeal was over and that Rioli had some clarity around his future.
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We look forward to him returning to the club and resuming what is an integral part of his life, Nisbett said.
It has certainly been very challenging for all concerned and what this case has highlighted is the need to continually educate and that the programs in place do not necessarily suit all players.
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Our club would like to acknowledge David Grace QC who handled this matter on our behalf.
After being drafted by West Coast with Pick 52 in the 2016 national draft, Rioli has kicked 46 goals in 38 games and played a key role in the clubs 2018 premiership triumph.

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