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Banned Magpies on the run as they return

Magpies return from doping bans Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas hit the track

BANNED Collingwood defender Lachie Keeffe has made an impressive return to training on Monday, finishing second in a 2km time trial for the club's new draftees and rookies.

Keeffe and Josh Thomas returned to the Holden Centre on Monday as their two-year ban for breaching the AFL Anti-Doping Code enters its final stage.

The duo are not eligible to return to competition until February 10, 2017, but they reported for training before 8am on Monday and said they were thrilled to get back to the club.

Both took part in the 2km time trial, which was won by rookie ruckman Max Lynch.

Travis Varcoe, who missed the Magpies' first time trial three weeks ago, came in third, while Thomas finished mid-pack.  

Keeffe's strong run was met with the applause of teammates and a smiling coach Nathan Buckley, who made a point of congratulating the 26-year-old.

Under rules relating to Thomas and Keeffe's suspensions, they are allowed to resume training at the club two months before the ban expires.

The Magpies retained both Keeffe and Thomas on their list for two seasons despite the pair receiving a ban when they tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol in February 2015. 

After accepting the ban in August 2015, the two Magpies delivered a statement with Thomas saying they assumed the substance was contained in illicit drugs they took before they were tested.

The club accepted that the players did not knowingly take clenbuterol and retained them. 

Keeffe is on Collingwood’s senior list while Thomas remains on the rookie list in 2017. 

Both players will have to work hard to regain a spot in the team's best 22.

However Keeffe shapes as a vital asset as he can play as a tall defender and pinch-hit in the ruck, while Thomas, 25, is an excellent in and under player. 

Keeffe played 40 games before the ban while Thomas chalked up 32 games. 

The pair remain popular among teammates and stayed in touch with the club during their ban.

 

Their most recent game at the Magpies was in round 23, 2014 with just 10 teammates from that game still on Collingwood's list. 

The Magpies will also welcome back long-serving administrator Geoff Walsh to the position of football manager on Monday after three years at North Melbourne. 

Walsh was previously in the role at the Magpies from 2006 to 2013 and is one of the game's most respected operators. 

Collingwood plays its first pre-season series game on February 16 at Etihad Stadium against Essendon.