AFL PLAYERS' Association boss Matt Finnis has slammed ASADA's decision to appeal the 18-month ban handed down to former St Kilda player Ahmed Saad by the AFL tribunal last month.
Saad recently admitted to using banned substance methylsynephrine unwittingly on match days before he returned a positive test earlier this year. He failed a post-match drug test in July and started a provisional suspension in August.
He expressed surprise and disappointment on the Association's behalf, saying that an 18-month sanction was substantial as it represented a significant chunk of an average AFL player's career.
Finnis even suggested ASADA's decision to appeal threatened to diminish the confidence players had in the anti-doping body.
"For any anti-doping regime to be credible and engender confidence among those it seeks to bind, it must be fair and recognise proportionality of penalties imposed," Finnis said. "This inevitably involves recognition of the specific context and impact of the penalty – something which the AFL Tribunal clearly did, but which is threatened by ASADA's decision to appeal."
He would have been able to nominate for the 2014 NAB AFL Draft and return to the AFL, if he was re-drafted, in February 2015.
However as he is unable to train with a club until the final month of the ban (Under new World Anti-Doping Authority regulations to be introduced on January 1, 2015, Saad could train with a club while he served the last month of his ban), any increase in the penalty would make it very difficult for him to work his way back into the system.
Finnis said that component of the ban made Saad's 18-month penalty even more onerous than if it were awarded to an individual athlete.
"In the case of an individual athlete, in which the opportunity to still train during suspension would be possible, the same can't be said for Ahmed. He is not permitted to train outside of a team environment and further, Ahmed is impacted by the AFL's particular listing times," Finnis said.
The tribunal that met on November 6 to hear the decision included tribunal chairman David Jones, Dr Susan White (a sports physician from the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee) and Wayne Henwood (a former player, lawyer and member of the tribunal).
The decision from ASADA means the AFL appeals board will now sit at a date to be fixed.
Melbourne's Bernie Vince said early on Thursday he had some sympathy for the small forward and thought Saad could be a very good AFL player if given another opportunity after serving his ban.
"You obviously feel for him but there are rules in place too," Vince said. "Hopefully he can sit out the ban and come back and St Kilda give him another opportunity because he certainly play."