A doping ban seemingly ended Ryan Crowley’s AFL career, but Essendon’s supplements saga has saved it.
Crowley will return to AFL ranks this season after being signed by Essendon as their first top-up player in the wake of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) supplements ruling.
The 31-year-old’s career appeared over when he was delisted by Fremantle last October – just a month after completing a backdated one-year doping ban for taking a prohibited substance.
Crowley played 188 games for the Dockers, the last coming in late 2014.
He established himself as the league’s best tagger in that time, but his career hit the skids after testing positive to methadone following the round-17 win over GWS in 2014.
Crowley claims the methadone was contained inside a painkiller he took to manage a back problem.
The veteran was preparing to play for WAFL club Swan Districts this year before being handed the lifeline from Essendon.
Crowley toured Essendon’s facilities on Tuesday, and he’ll begin training with the team on Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t recommend having a year off, but it’s amazing how good your body can feel,” Crowley said.
“It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours.
“Hopefully, I can bring a lot of experience, a bit of hardness and maybe just a bit of protection for some of the young Essendon players.
“We’ve got some great young on-ballers, (Zach) Merrett and (Darcy) Parish and these guys, so hopefully I can look after them.”
CAS last week upheld a WADA appeal against the AFL anti-doping tribunal ruling that had cleared 34 past and present Bombers players of doping.
It means 12 current players and five former teammates at other clubs cannot play this season.
However, the Bombers can sign up to 10 top-up players, and have until March 15 to do so.
Crowley will have to wait until round 11 before locking horns with his former teammates in what shapes as an intriguing clash at Domain Stadium.