Willie Rioli’s AFL dream remains alive with the West Coast star expected to escape with a two-year backdated suspension for substituting a urine sample.
Rioli, who has been provisionally suspended since September 12, 2019, was facing a ban of up to four years for the urine substitution charge.
But widespread reports on Thursday say he will be handed a two-year ban, with the official findings from the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal expected to be announced within the next 24 hours.
A finals return this year remains an outside chance for Rioli.
But even if that doesn’t occur, the backdated ban means the 25-year-old will have a full preseason with the Eagles next summer before fronting up for the 2022 campaign.
Sport Integrity Australia (formerly ASADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency have the option to appeal the suspension.
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 he was provisionally suspended on the eve of the club’s semi-final loss to Geelong in 2019 for a urine substitution charge relating to an out-of-competition drug test on August 20 that year.
It was later revealed Rioli had also tested positive for a metabolite of cannabis after the Eagles’ elimination-final win over Essendon on September 5, 2019.
The star goalsneak had to wait 15 months to get his chance to state his case at the AFL anti-doping tribunal and it’s taken another three months for a finding to be handed down.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan was among the critics to express their frustration at how long the process was taking.