Rioli drugs ban revealed
West Coast Eagles premiership forward Willie Rioli will be eligible to return to AFL football this August following a backdated suspension being handed down by the AFL on Thursday.
Rioli will be able to return to training from June 20, 2021 and is then eligible for selection from August 20, 2021 after his ban was reduced from a maximum four years because of the 'prompt admission defence'.
Rioli had been in limbo for more than 18 months over a verdict, finally having his hearing for tampering with a urine sample during an anti-doping drug test in August of 2019.
The 38-gamer was staring down a possible four-year ban as a subsequent test came back positive for a cannibis metabolite.
"I am very relieved that this long process has now ended," Rioli said in a statement on the Eagles' website.
"The stress of waiting for the outcome over a long period of time has been difficult for me and my family.
"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."
Football reporter and Sports Breakfast co-host Kim Hagdorn first broke the news of Rioli's punishment on Thursday morning's Breakfast program.
"“Willie Rioli and the AFL world is about to find out the long-awaited fate for his two adverse drug tests, the announcement is tipped for today or tomorrow,” Hagdorn said.
“That is coming from those very close to Rioli who are preparing his defence and any need for an appeal.
“He faces a four-year ban for two adverse drug tests, one in August of 2019 and one a fortnight later in September on a Thursday night after a match.
“He faces a four-year ban, my understanding is that the messages and the anticipation from close connections with Rioli is that he’ll be back playing this year.
“The feeling is that he will get a two-year ban and the argument behind the scenes that has won this case, for it be significantly reduced from a four-year ban, is perhaps why it’s taken so long to come to this.
“Rest assured, it is imminent - as early as today possibly, no later than tomorrow.”
He has not played since the Eagles' elimination final win against Essendon in 2019, with the star goalkicker pulled out of West Coast's squad to face Geelong the following week after being provisionally suspended.
He could yet feature for West Coast this season, but is more likely to return through the WAFL with an eye towards playing at AFL level again in 2022.
IMAGE: AFL website.