AFL 1 year ago

AFL defends severity of Whitfield ban

  • AFL defends severity of Whitfield ban

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Lachie Whitfield watches on during a Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL training session at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre on September 6, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has defended the severity of the ban handed to Greater Western Sydney's Lachie Whitfield.

The former No.1 draft pick will miss the first seven games of the 2017 season after accepting a six-month AFL ban on Tuesday.

The fallout was more far-reaching for former Giants staffers - football boss Graeme Allan and welfare manager Craig Lambert - who were banned for 12 months.

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The trio was investigated after Whitfield spent three days at Lambert's house, with the knowledge of Allan, in May last year in an alleged bid to avoid a possible drug test, which is a violation of the anti-doping code.

However, in a move ticked off by ASADA, the AFL instead handed bans down for a breach of its own rule 2.3 concerning conduct unbecoming.

All three had maintained throughout that Whitfield was simply seeking help as he went through a messy relationship break-up.

"I think when you get a six-month suspension that's acknowledgement that you have transgressed and you have behaved in a way that wasn't right," McLachlan said.

"I think six months is a reasonably significant suspension.

"He's a ... kid who took advice from his supervisors, the people who were looking after him, so there's a different allocation of responsibility."

Whitfield will be barred from using GWS facilities for four months before returning to train for the final two months of his ban while not being allowed to play.

He will be cleared to return in the Giants' round eight clash against Collingwood at Spotless Stadium.

Allan, who was installed as general manager of football at Collingwood in August, quit his post in response to the suspension.

Lambert has since moved on to a similar post with Brisbane and will miss the entire 2017 season.

In a damning assessment, the AFL investigation found Whitfield sent incriminating text messages to a third party, the contents of which he subsequently denied.

In those texts he stated he had taken illicit drugs, was staying at Lambert's house to avoid ASADA drug testers and was doing so under instruction from Allan and Lambert, who feared the drugs may have been laced with performance-enhancing substances.

Much harsher bans could have been brought into play if ASADA had pursued the trio for a breach of the anti-doping code.

McLachlan said there was no evidence or even allegations Whitfield had anything to do with performance-enhancing drugs, with the league taking into account that all three men had elected to plead guilty and not contest the charges.

The league is yet to decide whether GWS will be penalised with a loss of draft picks, with AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon to consider that possibility in the coming days.

The Giants, however, believe their club is not at fault over the issue.

"It has been established that former senior staff acted outside of their authority in managing circumstances and taking matters into their own hands," a club statement read.

"Their handling of the matter was independent of the club and did not conform with the clearly established club protocols, thus in no way relating to a governance failure on behalf of the club."

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