St Kilda forward Ahmed Saad says he is ''surprised and extremely disappointed'' after returning a positive test to a banned substance within the past month, but he faces a two-year suspension from the game.
The 23-year-old, who burst into senior football from the VFL in 2012, is understood to have inadvertently taken a banned substance and is being investigated by the league. It is not known whether more than one sample has been provided by Saad, nor whether he has delivered more than one positive sample.
St Kilda confirmed that Saad was being investigated on Wednesday afternoon after Fairfax Media revealed the story on Tuesday night.
Fairfax Media understands Saad has claimed he took the substance unwittingly, while the Saints say the substance is permitted out of competition but not in competition.
In a statement on St Kilda's website, the club said: ''St Kilda Football Club can confirm that Ahmed Saad is the player under review by the AFL for an alleged breach of the AFL Anti-Doping Code.
''Ahmed is surprised and extremely disappointed to find himself in this position, after returning a positive sample to a substance alleged to be on the prohibited list in the AFL Anti-Doping Code.
''Further tests will be conducted on the substance in the near future. The product suspected is permitted for use out of competition but is not allowed to be used in competition.
''The club is bound by confidentiality under the AFL Anti-Doping Code and as a consequence cannot make further comment at this time.''
Saad's personal sponsor, Viking Protein, a supplements supplier, has removed the company's name from his Facebook page.
Saad is an AFL multicultural ambassador. He has not played in the Saints' senior side for the past three weeks after being dropped after St Kilda's defeat against Fremantle in round 15. He did, however, play in the VFL last week and was featured in a video on the Saints' website kicking a spectacular scissor-kick goal.
Under anti-doping rules his sentence could be significantly reduced should he demonstrate he mistakenly ingested a banned drug or supplement under the no-fault clause in international doping regulations. However, the VFL and WAFL players who have tested positive or fallen foul of doping regulations in the past three years have all been dealt with strongly, with five receiving two-year bans and the other an 18-month ban.
Although the AFL is understood to have accepted the player could have taken the banned substance in error, he still faces a significant suspension from the game.
If charged, Saad would face a specially convened AFL tribunal hearing, chaired by David Jones and including at least one anti-doping expert.
Doping authorities have the power to overrule any decision handed down if it is deemed to be inappropriate.
Saad is an Australian-born, Egyptian-reared soccer player-turned footballer, who only switched codes aged 16 while at Roxburgh Park Secondary College.
He has spoken proudly of his Islamic faith, juggled observance of Ramadan with the demands of AFL football, and gained something of a cult following for his quirky, elongated approach to set shots for goal.
VFL player Matthew Clark was suspended for two years after the banned substance dimethylamylamine was detected in his system after a game in 2011. The Frankston midfielder was originally suspended for nine months, but that term was extended after the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority appealed against the leniency of the initial suspension. It was found Clark had accepted a pre-match drink, Hemo Rage, from a teammate.
Clark has always maintained he was assured by his teammate the product was permitted under the drug code.
Richmond's Justin Charles was the first AFL player to be suspended for taking banned drugs, in his case an anabolic steroid. He was suspended for 16 weeks.
Hawthorn's Travis Tuck was banned for 12 weeks in 2010 for registering a third strike under the AFL's illicit drugs policy.