Surely Wade Lees must feel like he’s drawn the short straw, or comparatively, one absolutely minuscule and tiny straw.
It comes as a result of a sanction that sat in the back of his head for a year, finally handed down by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, preventing him from playing VFL football for 18 months.
The strong and talented utility, playing for the Casey Scorpions, was emerging as an important factor in Casey’s form – though restricted by a broken jaw in May and not playing another game for the year – over the past two seasons, but with a suspension holding him from football until 2014, he’ll be sorely missed.
Lees also famously relinquished his number 25 guernsey for Brendan Fevola when they became teammates and good friends as a result.
However, where the penalty becomes somewhat controversial is from the fact that Lees has never previously used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.
The suspension comes from a fat-burning product Lees ordered from the United States back in 2010, which he planned to use to keep up a high fitness level to compete with AFL players, and also believed to be perfectly legitimate within the ASADA’s standards.
The package was intercepted once it hit Australian soil and an investigation begun, leading to the ban which he tweeted about during the week.
“18 month ban. Shattered!!!thanks 2 everyone who helped me out been a big help. To asada you should really spend more time on catching cheats,” he tweeted.
It follows a nine-month ban handed down to Matt Clark, a Frankston player, for using a supplement called Hemo Rage.
The product was given to Clark by a friend who told him it was legal, but it didn’t prevent him being banned for just under a year. It was also the first ban under the VFL’s new drug code.
The striking difference between the two bans, however, is the length, with Lees copping twice as long.
How both players can be unaware that they were intending to use an illegal substance yet the one who actively used it receiving a ban half the length is confusing at the best of times.
Although a different code with different rules, Ben Cousins’ 12-month ban for drug possession and refusing a drug test five years ago seems much more serious, yet somehow Cousins received a much shorter ban.
It’s an inconsistency that the VFL needs to highlight and explain. With two suspensions in a year, it appears as if the line between what can and can’t be done is quite blurred.
As playing VFL football is not a full-time occupation or under an organisation as large as the AFL, it’s highly likely that the drug education levels stemming from the VFL are not up to the same standard.
It’s led to two accidents which will leave the careers of two promising players unfortunately cut short, and it’s difficult to point the finger at them for it.