AFL rocked by drug scandal as Melbourne Demons player stood down

The Melbourne Demons player returned a positive test to a prohibited substance.

Pictured here, Melbourne Demons player Joel Smith.
The AFL has stood down Demons Joel Smith after he returned a positive test to a banned substance late in the 2023 home and away season. Image: Getty

The AFL has stood down Melbourne Demons utility Joel Smith after he returned a positive drug test for cocaine. A regulation urine sample taken from the player after the round 23 game against Hawthorn came back positive.

It is believed that Smith took the banned substance in the days leading up to the match. His positive test result wasn't known until the conclusion of the finals series.

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The test was carried out by Sports Integrity Australia officials as part of regulation in-competition testing for performance-enhancing drugs. The positive result has only been known for a couple of days and Sports Integrity Australia has informed the player of his test result.

The AFL's banned substance list complies with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) code, with cocaine listed on the WADA in-competition prohibited list of stimulants.

AFL confirms Joel Smith has been stood down

The AFL confirmed Smith had been stood down effective immediately in a statement on Thursday morning. “The AFL confirms that a mandatory provisional suspension (which is effective immediately) has been imposed on Melbourne FC player Joel Smith following notification to him by Sport Integrity Australia of an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) and a potential violation of the Australian Football Anti-Doping Code (Code)," it read.

“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.

This image shows Melbourne AFL star Joel Smith.
A urine sample taken from Smith after a game in the weeks leading up to the AFL finals returned positive for a banned substance, believed to be cocaine. Image: Getty (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

“Smith was tested after the round 23 Melbourne vs Hawthorn game on Sunday August 20, 2023 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. 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.’’

Demons player could face big ban

The player could face up to four years on the sidelines for an "in-competition" positive test. However, if they can prove the violation was not intentional, under the AFL's anti-doping code, the suspension could be much smaller.

"An athlete who has tested positive to a Substance of Abuse’ in-competition (which includes cocaine), the sanction is only three months if the athlete can prove the substance was used out of competition and was unrelated to sporting performance’," the code updated on January 1, 2021 states.

The "in-competition" period begins at 11:59pm on the day before the competition in which the athlete is scheduled to participate and ends following the sample collection process at the conclusion of the match.

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