RYAN CROWLEY'S future is in the air after the AFL handed the tagger a 12-month suspension for breaching the anti-doping code.
The sanction is backdated to September 25 last year – the day he accepted a voluntary suspension - meaning he could play in the last two weeks of finals. However, with Crowley only able to resume training with the club two months before the suspension ends, that outcome seems unlikely.
The preliminary finals land on the weekend of September 25 and 26, and the Grand Final on October 3. Crowley is suspended from playing until September 24.
ASADA appears unlikely to appeal the ban, with CEO Ben McDevitt saying in a statement: "We note the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal found Mr Crowley did not intend to violate the World Anti-Doping Code."
"This case illustrates the dangers of inadvertent doping. Athletes need to be careful about what they take, even if they don't intend to cheat."
Crowley was found to have breached the anti-doping code after testing positive to a banned substance last year.
He failed a match-day test after Fremantle's round 17 game on July 13. The specific substance was contained in a painkiller that wasn't prescribed by the club.
According to a timeline released by the AFL, that sample wasn't tested until August 11. Crowley was notified of a positive 'A' sample result for a 'specified' substance on August 18.
His 'B' sample was tested on September 11 and he received a show-cause notice on September 18 - five days after Fremantle's last game of the 2014 season.
Crowley's positive test was not made public until March 16 this year. His AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal hearing was initially set for May 1, however it was delayed until May 18 after the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority requested more time to prepare following written submissions from Crowley's legal team.
The hearing began and concluded on May 18 with the Tribunal reserving its decision until Thursday.
Crowley had been training at the club throughout his provisional suspension but the majority of his work has been done away from the main squad on his own.
Coach Ross Lyon and several teammates have stated that he had also been regularly present in team meetings and had been mentoring some of the young.
Crowley said he deeply regretted his actions.
"I am deeply remorseful and disappointed with the mistake that I made last year," Crowley said in a statement.
"I genuinely never intentionally meant to do the wrong thing.
"In the 13 years I have been playing for Fremantle I have never wanted to jeopardise my career and position at the club, or let any of my teammates or fans down. And for that I hope you will accept my deepest and sincerest apology."
"That being said, I respect the decision of the tribunal and I look forward, hopefully, to playing for the Fremantle Football Club once again."
Chief executive Steve Rosich said the length of time between Crowley's provisional suspension beginning and the verdict from the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal was appropriate under the circumstances.
"Because until there was going to be a validated hearing then it was information that we were happy to hold back and sit on and continue to work though, and support Ryan," he said.
Fremantle president Harris echoed Crowley’s disappointment.
"We are extremely disappointed that a senior player well versed in our medical protocols, and with the benefit of regular information and education sessions on AFL policies, would make such a poor choice instead of consulting our club doctors," Harris said.
"Having said that, no one is more disappointed with the situation than Ryan. It has been a very stressful time for him, and the sanction means that he can’t be considered for selection at any level until the last few weeks of the 2015 finals series.
"Now the matter has been dealt with by the tribunal, our focus, as it has been since the club was first advised last year, will continue to be our duty of care for Ryan as a respected and valued member of our team.
"As we would with any player on our list, we will continue to support and help Ryan."
The 31-year-old has played 188 games for the club since he was drafted in 2002. He won the club's best and fairest in 2012 and had become one of the premier taggers in the competition under Lyon.
Crowley is out of contract at the end of the season.
The club said in a statement that it would not make a decision on Crowley's long-term playing future at Fremantle until after the season is completed, as part of the normal list management process.