BY – JACKSON CLARK
A promising young footballer has had his AFL career severely halted after he was given an 18-month suspension after admitting to taking a substance on the prohibited list.
St Kilda footballer Ahmed Saad will not be able to play football until 2015 after he tested positive to a banned stimulant contained in a pre-workout shake that he consumed before a match.
After reading many discussion boards and comments from fans of the game, the general consensus is that Saad is a cheat and he deserves his punishment.
But this was not the act of a cheat.
It was an honest, albeit negligent and naïve mistake made by a young footballer trying to get the best out of himself.
Saad had to work hard for an opportunity in the AFL. He joined VFL side Northern Bullants in 2009 despite not being formally invited to train with the club. He turned up unannounced to an early pre-season training and was allowed to continue.
After failing to play a senior VFL game in his first season with the club, Saad developed over the next two years and eventually become one of the most damaging small forwards in the competition.
His 50-goal season in 2011 finally gave him the chance at an AFL club yet only two years later he has found himself delisted.
Saad is not the only player that has had his career and reputation tarnished as a result of harsh drug bans.
VFL player Wade Lees copped an 18-month ban after attempting to import a fat-burning product he ordered on the internet.
His package was intercepted by Australian Customs who alerted the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. Despite not even taking the substance, Lees has missed two of the prime years of his football career.
Matthew Clark is another case of a young footballer missing years for an honest mistake. The VFL player consumed an energy drink that contained a banned substance prior to game.
There was no malicious intent in Clark’s actions, in fact, he knew he was going to be drug tested after the game.
The drink was reportedly common amongst VFL players and bought at a store that is easily accessible to any athlete.
Despite this his initial nine-month ban handed down by AFL Victoria was appealed by ASADA and increased to two years.
Clark’s mother Jan, while facing her own personal health problems with a cancer battle, expressed her dismay through writing a letter supporting her son.
She passed away two days before Mother’s Day this year and sadly never got to see her son play again.
There is absolutely no place for cheating in the AFL and other sports. However there is a big difference between knowingly injecting yourself with substances such as anabolic steroids and taking commonly consumed energy drinks.
Rather than hatred, Saad and the VFL footballers that received bans deserve sympathy. Saad has hopes of returning to the AFL after his ban expires and I personally hope he makes it back.