Rioli faces a ban of up to four years for the alleged tampering, while the positive test for a cannabis metabolite is viewed as the less serious offence. An imminent change to the WADA drug code (that the AFL adopts), which radically reduces penalties for illicit drug positives from years to matter of weeks, will not come in time for Rioli, since the change will not take effect until January 1, 2021 and does not apply to past cases.
West Coast has stood by Rioli, retaining him on their playing list for 2020, in the knowledge that the ex-Tiwi Islander and member of a famous football family has little chance of playing this year.
In theory, Rioli could apply to the AFL for permission to play, giving up his provisional suspension, but this will not happen for two reasons: one, that the time Rioli serves before his case is decided will be taken off his sentence and second, that there would be virtually no chance that the AFL would grant him permission to play, given the circumstances of his case.
The slow progress is consistent with some of the ASADA cases involving AFL players. Collingwood’s now ex-defender Sam Murray tested positive to a metabolite of cocaine in July of 2018, but did not receive his sanction for more than a year, eventually receiving a ban of 18 months, which allows him to play round one this season (for VFL club Williamstown).
Rioli went home to the Northern Territory immediately after the news broke of the adverse findings, but returned to Perth for pre-season at West Coast in January.
“He drove back last week,” West Coast coach Adam Simpson said this week. “He’s expecting the birth of his second child, the baby is due on March 13.”
Simpson said the Eagles were “waiting like everyone else” to learn when Rioli’s case would be heard.
“It was a chance for him to bond with the players for a couple of weeks, train, just be normal,” Simpson said of Rioli’s return to the club in pre-season.