History does not bode well for St Kilda's Ahmed Saad in the investigation over his use of a banned substance.

History does not bode well for St Kilda's Ahmed Saad in the investigation over his use of a banned substance. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

If one uses the second-tier competitions as a guideline for what Ahmed Saad can expect if he is found to have taken a World Anti-Doping Agency-banned substance, he will be in terrible strife.

Of six players who ran foul of the doping regulations in the VFL and the WAFL since 2010, five received two-year bans and one - Casey's Wade Lees - served 18 months simply for ordering a fat-burning substance that contained steroids. Lees' order was intercepted at customs. In the case of Frankston's Matthew Clark, who received a sports drink with the ominous name Hemo Rage, the VFL tribunal took pity, handing him nine months, only to have that stretch extended to two years by a hardline Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

Former Richmond player Travis Casserly copped a two-year ban for using pseudoephedrine - yep, the stuff in cold tablets like Sudafed - after the WAFL grand final of 2010.

Three other WAFL players were rubbed out for two years for using either steroids or a stimulant.

From what Fairfax Media has gathered, Saad's explanation was that he took the substance unwittingly. This was also Matthew Clark's defence, which ASADA did not accept even though the drink was given to him by someone else.

That there are half a dozen ugly precedents for Saad at VFL or WAFL level raises the question of whether there has been a cultural problem incubated in the second-tier level, where there is not as much testing and players might run the gauntlet. Is the aspiration to play AFL causing some players to take risks?

Motivations cannot be measured but there is certainly far less testing at VFL and WAFL level, due to the enormous expense - it costs about $900 per test and those bodies cannot afford constant testing. It is significant that the WAFL managed to nab three players from only 72 tests over a two-year period (2010-11) and then doubled its testing regime. There is no testing in the under 18 TAC Cup competition - only the elite who play for their states are tested.

Pre-Saad, the AFL had nabbed no individual player since Justin Charles in 1997 from many more tests. Either the elite-level players are not as prone to using banned substances or those who do are more sophisticated and/or lucky. This is discounting the unique Essendon situation, where there are not any positive tests and ASADA is relying on documents and witness evidence.

The VFL has introduced a rule that players who were not on AFL lists would not be allowed to play unless they had completed the education on performance-enhancing drugs. This was a response to the two cases in the VFL rather than Essendon/Cronulla.

''If the education was up to scratch, all these incidents, like mine and Travis Casserly and Matt Clark wouldn't happen,'' Lees said after his two-year suspension.

The VFL's view is that the ''I didn't know this was banned'' excuse won't wash. Will the AFL follow this hard line? On the form shown by ASADA and the second-tier tribunals, Saad will need to arm himself with more than ignorance.