‘Cheap way out’: Richmond football boss left frustrated by AFL fine

Tigers football boss Neil Balme says he’s been left frustrated by the recent AFL-imposed sanction handed to his club, saying the fact teams have to foot the bill for lack of player whereabouts information is a “pretty cheap way out”.

Richmond was one of four clubs fined on Thursday for failing to follow anti-doping whereabouts rules for multiple players on an end-of-season trip.

The AFL fined the Tigers — as well as the Western Bulldogs — $2500, while the Demons copped a $5000 sanction. Carlton copped the biggest fine ($10,000) for failing to provide complete information.

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Balme confirmed the Tigers were fined due to one player “not being where he said he was going to be”.

The whereabouts system is a key part of ASADA’s anti-doping regime and in the AFL, it’s the responsibility of the clubs to keep the information up to date. It means ASADA can conduct out-of-competition tests without warning.

If an athlete is unavailable for testing, in some cases it can count as an anti-doping violation and lead to a ban.

Neil Balme’s Richmond was one of four clubs fined. Picture: Scott Barbour

Neil Balme’s Richmond was one of four clubs fined. Picture: Scott BarbourSource: AAP

AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said it was the responsibility of all clubs to constantly ensure that whereabouts requirements were met at all times.

But Balme said that reasoning didn’t sit comfortably with him.

“There’s a set-up for the drug stuff, the WADA stuff, that says ‘we need to know where everyone is in the off-season just in case they’re doing something wrong’, which I kind of understand. But I don’t think there’s any suggestion that any of these players, who weren’t where they thought they were going to be, were actually taking drugs,” Balme told SEN Breakfast.

“If they fine them for not being somewhere, I think they need to go through the process of actually testing them for drugs, because I think — and I’m a bit disingenuous, I reckon — but the fact that it is the club’s responsibility is a pretty cheap way out as well.

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“The Players’ Association and the AFL negotiate time off for the players, which they get and it’s significant and they need it and we make sure it works. But then they say it is our responsibility for the player to tell someone where they are during that time and if a player doesn’t tell someone where they are, then it’s our problem.

“I’m not quite sure how we’re supposed to fix that.”

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‘We can be a good duo’

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However Balme said he understood why the AFL puts the onus on clubs.

“It’s a much easier way to control — and the players do totally understand and I accept the fact that whereabouts is an important thing because there may be one in a million players who does do something in terms of performance-enhancing drugs,” he said.

“Fortunately, I don’t think we have anything like a problem in that area.”

— with AAP

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