Sam Murray is in a fight to save his AFL career. Picture: AAP
Sam Murray is in a fight to save his AFL career. Picture: AAP

Collingwood defender to fight four-year ban for cocaine use

SAM Murray's lawyers will fight for a career-saving ban of only two years, with his AFL anti-doping hearing only weeks away.

The Herald Sun understands negotiations are under way for an AFL anti-doping hearing on his cocaine match-day positive to be held in late June or early July.

Hard-running Pies defender Murray recorded the positive in last year's round-19 clash against Richmond and took a provisional sentence after the drug issue came to light.

The maximum ban for a match-day positive for cocaine is four years, which would effectively end the career of the 21-year-old.

But his provisional suspension means a two-year ban would expire late next season, with Murray able to train with the club in the final months of his suspension.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said Murray was "'in limbo" as he awaited the next step in the ASADA process.

"I have spoken to Sam periodically and obviously he's in limbo," Buckley said on 3AW.

"The ongoing discussions and the investigation by ASADA and the time that it takes for them to come to their conclusions are tough on everyone.

"But the football club has supported Sam and the people who are representing him as best we possibly can, but we are in the dark largely.

"Even the information that I read yesterday and today is more information than I am actually aware of."

It would make it much easier for the Pies to consider bringing Murray back into the fold for the 2021 season.

Former ASADA boss Richard Ings told the Herald Sun that in general it was extremely hard to argue down mandatory four-year suspensions given the difficulty in proving reduced fault.

"Generally speaking it's exceedingly rare for an athlete subject to a match day positive for cocaine to get a reduced sanction," he said.

The player would have to prove he did not take the drug, or took steps to ensure it was not still in his system between use and the match-day positive.

Murray's camp has not been in a hurry to expedite the anti-doping hearing because he has been able to train at Ovens and Murray club Wangaratta Rovers with his brother Nick.

Murray is being paid by Collingwood and could still be training with the club, but has been happy to dodge the scrutiny of remaining around the place.


Murray could train with the Pies in the final months of his suspension. Picture: Getty Images
Murray could train with the Pies in the final months of his suspension. Picture: Getty Images

As a suspended player, Murray would not be able to train with a football club through the majority of his ban, but the Pies would have the discretion to still be able to pay him.

Collingwood kept Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas on their list as rookies while they served drug suspensions despite them being unable to train with the club.

Once Murray fronts the hearing with sports lawyer Ben Ihle, the deliberations  will quickly hand him a suspension.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan  told 3AW on Friday that the Murray case was coming to a head.

"It's people's lives and livelihood. People are entitled to natural justice and a process that plays out. That's what's happening," he said.

Pies chief executive Mark Anderson said recently that the club was committed to helping Murray through the case.

"Collingwood and myself are absolutely committed to also supporting Sam through the process that he's going to face. It will be difficult and probably a lengthy process and we will certainly stand by him and provide him with support as much as we can," Anderson said.