Ben Cousins cleared with conditions to play football
Controversial footballer Ben Cousins has been cleared to resume his elite playing career, with the AFL Commission announcing that the 30-year-old is eligible to be registered by any AFL club wishing to draft him.
"This wasn't easy," AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said of the decision to allow Cousins to be re-registered. He added that based on "the best medical evidence handed to the commission," permission was decided to be granted for a Cousins' return.
The decision - which while much anticipated, was not hugely surprising - came at the completion of the 12 month ban the AFL imposed on Cousins on November 19 last year after the commission then found the former West Coast Eagles captain, and 2005 Brownlow Medal winner, guilty of "conduct unbecoming and likely to prejudice the interest of the AFL and [of] bringing the game into disrepute."
The ban came following his much-publicised slide into drug addiction, and after a highly controversial year, one which culminated in his dramatic daylight arrest in Perth, where WA police charged him with possessing a prohibited drug and failing to comply with a requirement to undergo a driver assessment. Those charges were later dropped.
A year ago, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said of the Commission's decision: "The message that we're sending here is that we've said to Ben, "Go away and get yourself right. We want you to get healthy. We want you to be rehabilitated and if you can do that you can come back in 12 months."
He did, he is, and now with their decision today, he can also come back.
There are several conditions Cousins must adhere to upon his return, including urine tests up to three times a week, and hair tests up to four times a year. He must also co-operate fully with the AFL medical team's testing, and not "fail, delay, hinder or tamper" with any drug test.
Should he fail or break any of the rules set out, he can be suspended immediately pending a hearing.
Cousins had passed all the medical requirements put forward by the league, had not been involved in any controversy, and really there was only one decision which could be made, and that was to re-register him as an AFL player.
Cousins was not in Sydney today for the announcement, he was at his home in Perth, accompanied by a film production team which has been putting together a documentary on the trouble star's life. The story is expected to be finished and air next February. He was telephoned immediately after the decision was made by the AFL to advise him of the outcome. Now that he is free to play again, the focus turns onto which club wants to sign him.
While many clubs have been rumoured to be looking at him, there appears to be just two contenders - Brisbane and St Kilda.
St Kilda appear to be the favourite, with the club's board to meet next week to decide whether Cousins will be drafted by the Saints.
with Michael Gleeson