- Smith, 27, has been charged with cocaine trafficking.
- Sport Integrity Australia allegedly has text messages sent by a star
- Demons captain Gawn spoke out about the scandal on Wednesday
Max Gawn is convinced Melbourne does not have a drug culture as the AFL club reels from new anti-doping charges laid against teammate Joel Smith.
In a dramatic escalation, the league confirmed on Tuesday night that Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) had charged Smith with three anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) of the Australian Football Anti-Doping Code for alleged “trafficking or attempted trafficking” of cocaine for third parties.
Gawn acknowledged the new charges were shocking, but the Demons captain staunchly defended his club.
It is the latest blow in a tumultuous off-season for Melbourne, with a number of off-field issues keeping the club in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Gawn (pictured playing for Melbourne on Sunday) is convinced the Demons do not have a drug culture problem despite sensational allegations leveled at teammate Joel Smith.
Smith (pictured with fiancee Elise Carroll) has been accused of sending cocaine text messages to other Melbourne players.
Smith has been provisionally suspended since October, when he was reported with a positive cocaine test following the Demons’ Round 20 win over Hawthorn on August 20.
Asked on Wednesday if there was any problem with the club, Gawn said: “In my opinion, no, no.
‘It’s obviously quite shocking. (But) all I can say is that for 16 years I’ve had drug tests and for 10 years I’ve had hair tests.
“In those 10 years, I had never been told that our club has a drug culture.
“Until they tell me we have a problem or until I can see it myself, with my own eyes, I can only be wrong.”
Gawn and AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon said the SIA investigation into the charges was ongoing and nothing had yet been proven.
After Melbourne crashed out of the finals in straight sets for the second season in a row, issues intensified around their star outfield player Clayton Oliver and Smith’s positive test also became public.
The 27-year-old’s career is in jeopardy after Sport Integrity Australia brought new anti-doping charges against him, including an allegation of cocaine trafficking.
Amid other media reports of off-field problems at the club, chief executive Gary Pert claimed the club’s culture was “the best I have seen in 40 years”.
“I’d like to think I have a good understanding of our group and that we’ve had an incredible summer, with the turmoil we had during September and October,” Gawn said.
‘I’m incredibly optimistic, we have the right culture.
‘I’m not hiding, there are problems, and we will make sure we get it right. “But there will be problems every year, whether you (the media) write about it or not.”
Gawn spoke impressively at an AFL function on Wednesday morning, although he noted he was limited given the ongoing investigation.
The Demons captain also said Tuesday night was the first he heard about the allegation that Smith had texted his teammates regarding cocaine.
Demons captain Gawn (pictured playing last Sunday) did not deny the club has issues with its culture and said the team has had an “incredible summer”.
According to the code, trafficking is defined as “the sale, delivery, transportation, shipment, delivery or distribution of a prohibited substance by an athlete… to any third party.”
Smith was also notified of another ADRV for possession of cocaine on September 9, 2022.
He was already facing a maximum four-year suspension under the AFL’s anti-doping code for his positive cocaine test.
It’s unclear how much the additional charges could add to any suspension, or when that would be determined.
Smith will remain provisionally suspended and will not be able to train or play with his teammates, and the AFL confirmed under the code that the SIA will further investigate the new alleged breaches.
The 27-year-old’s matter could be heard at the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal, but there is no timetable on when that could happen.