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Dees forward's career in the balance as two-year ban for cocaine use looms

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10th January, 2024
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The career of Melbourne forward Joel Smith is hanging in the balance after his bid for a three-month suspension over a positive cocaine test was reportedly rejected.

Smith, who was provisionally suspended after testing positive following the Demons’ Round 23 win over Hawthorn last year, is facing a two-year ban pending a successful appeal.

According to The Age, the 27-year old, who established himself in the Dees’ forward line in 2023, appealed to Sport Integrity Australia for a three-month suspension, claiming the drug was not performance enhancing and was used recreationally; that verdict would have enabled him to re-join the club’s pre-season training this week.

However, Smith was informed during the week a hearing before Christmas had judged him guilty, with the forward and the AFL Players Association set to appeal the verdict.

Smith was the first AFL player to have a positive drugs test since laws were changed in early 2021 to allow leeway for players who could successfully prove their use was not performance-enhancing; previously, any illicit drugs detected in an athlete’s system would bring about a ban of up to four years.

In a statement to The Age, AFL spokesperson Jay Allen confirmed Smith remains ‘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,” Allen said.

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“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, including a career-high 14 in 2023, and kicked 11 of his 12 AFL goals last season, with three coming in their semi final loss to Carlton.

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His provisional suspension continues what has been a nightmare off-season for the Dees, with star midfielder Clayton Oliver hospitalised in October after suffering a seizure, before taking an indefinite break after a pre-season training session.

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