What next for Rioli after drug test saga?
WEST Coast Eagles livewire Willie Rioli was caught pouring a liquid - possibly an energy drink - into a drug-test beaker in a panicked attempt to dupe anti-doping officers.
Rioli, 24, is out of Friday night's semi-final showdown against Geelong at the MCG after being suspended on Wednesday night over an "adverse analytical finding" that there was a "urine substitution".
Rioli had been caught by two Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority officers overseeing a test in Perth on August 20, insiders say, amid speculation that the substance was an energy drink.
"He tried to manipulate his sample on-site and got caught red-handed," a source said.
Rioli would then have been forced to provide a legitimate sample, the test results of which had not yet been revealed, the insider added.
Rioli will remain sidelined until a joint ASADA-AFL investigation is completed. He faces a maximum four-year ban.
The urine test on the small forward was conducted two days after the Eagles lost to Richmond in Round 22 at the MCG on August 18. "It's something other than urine that has been produced by Willie as part of the testing process," Eagles football boss Craig Vozzo confirmed yesterday after the AFL revealed the suspension.
Under ASADA's strict testing code, players are required to provide a minimum of 90ml of urine, which is immediately poured into A and B sample bottles. These are securely shut and can only be reopened by a special lab machine.
Rioli's mobile phone was confiscated by the Eagles, with the club reeling over the shock suspension. He had flown to Melbourne with teammates on Wednesday and was informed of the suspension by league investigators on the team's arrival at the Parkview Hotel on St Kilda Rd.
In regard to the Willie Rioli announcement, he has not tested positive to a banned substance. The AFL presser is that his sample allegedly shows urine substitution. So it is more a tampering /substitution allegation.— Richard Ings (@ringsau) September 12, 2019
A most serious allegation.
Addressing a snap press conference, Vozzo said Rioli would not have been able to play even if he had not been ruled out.
"He is very, very flat. He's a little bit of a mess," Vozzo said.
"The club and staff are really worried about his wellbeing. He is not in a great space and it's our job to help him as best as we can."
"The state he is in now, I don't know if he would be able to play," said Vozzo.
Asked what Rioli was alleged to have done, he said it would be the subject of a "detailed inquiry" that would unfold over many weeks.
Rioli had left the team ahead of Friday nights's match, Vozzo said, but he would not reveal if he was still in Melbourne.
Given Rioli was caught more than three weeks ago, questions have been raised as to why he was able to play two more AFL games, including the knockout final against Essendon, before being suspended.
AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said yesterday: "The provisional suspension is effective immediately. Rioli will not be eligible to compete in AFL competitions or any WADA-compliant sport including the WAFL while provisionally suspended.
"He will be able to train prior to final determination of the asserted code violation."
The Eagles have engaged top silk David Grace, QC, who represented the Essendon 34 during the Bombers' drug scandal.
An ASADA spokesman said: "This is an operational matter and as such we won't be making a comment at this stage."
Last night, the Eagles were out from $1.90 to $2 with bookmaker TAB for tonight's clash with Geelong.
Rioli has played 14 games this year, averaging 6.6 score involvements and kicking 18 goals.
The speedster kicked one goal in each of West Coast's three finals last year, including the Grand Final.
HOW IT UNFOLDED
August 18 - Willie Rioli kicks two goals in the Eagles' six-point, Round 22 loss to Richmond at the MCG
August 20 - Drug test conducted
August 24 - Rioli boots three goals in a shock 38-point Round 23 loss to Hawthorn in Perth
September 5 - Rioli has 15 possessions in a 55-point win over Essendon in the first Elimination Final in Perth
Wednesday - ASADA informs the AFL of the result of Rioli's drug test and Rioli is formally notified of his suspension upon arriving in Melbourne
Yesterday at 4.20pm - News breaks of Rioli's "adverse analytical finding for urine substitution'' and subsequent suspension