Melbourne Demons’ Joel Smith facing minimum two-year drug ban

Melbourne Demons defender Joel Smith is reportedly facing a minimum two year ban after he tested positive for cocaine in late 2023.

Smith was named by the AFL in October 2023 as a player who had been found to have cocaine and benzoylecgonine – the drug’s major substance – in his system, which is prohibted under the Australian football anti-doping code.

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The Demons then handed down a provisional suspension effective immediately as the case was investigated by Sport Integrity Australia.

The Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson reported that a report from Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) had been sent to Smith, which is believed to have found him guilty of taking a performance enhancing drug.

Smith is expected to fight the finding with Robinson reporting his appeal would centre on an argument that “only a minuscule amount of cocaine was found in his system, ruling out the performance-enhancing finding”.

The Herald Sun reported that the SIA had not imposed a penalty but that sources told the masthead that it pointed to at least a two-year suspension — a much heftier ban than the three-month suspension both Smith and the Demons had been angling for under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules introduced in 2021.

The WADA rules require a player suspended for cocaine or marijuana to undergo treatment for substance abuse, as well as proving “the substance was used out-of-competition and that its use was unrelated to sporting performance”.

Smith’s urine sample was collected after the Demons’ round 23 win over Hawthorn on August 20.

A three month ban backdated would have ended today.

The AFL confirmed that Smith would remain provisionally suspended.

“The AFL advises that the matter involving Joel Smith of the Melbourne Football Club being investigated by Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) under the Australian Football Anti-Doping Code is ongoing,” AFL spokesperson Jay Allen said.

“Joel remains provisionally suspended and as such he is not permitted to participate in Melbourne’s pre-season training when it recommences in the coming days.

“Due to the ongoing nature of the anti-doping process the AFL will not comment further at this time.”

Smith has played 42 matches for the Demons since being picked up with the 41st pick of the 2016 rookie draft.

He played the Demons’ final 12 matches of the season, including the qualifying final and semi-final before the club’s straight sets exit.

Despite the cloud hanging over his career, 27-year-old had some positive personal news recently, announcing his engagement to partner Elise Carroll in December.

It comes after the pair welcomed a child, daughter Tilly, in September.

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