Liberatore banned for rest of AFL season
By Sam Lienert
18:25 AEST Mon Aug 6 2012

Western Bulldogs rising star Tom Liberatore has been suspended for the rest of the season and will be targeted by AFL-sanctioned drug-testers after being found unconscious by police.

The Bulldogs' leadership group imposed the ban after the 20-year-old was found heavily intoxicated and in possession of a small amount of a recreational illicit substance in the early hours of Sunday.

The group issued him with a $5000 suspended fine and demanded he undergo club-driven counselling and find full-time employment for the next six weeks.

Liberatore, the son of Bulldogs great and 1990 Brownlow Medallist Tony Liberatore, has also been banned from training with the club during the suspension.

The Bulldogs' stance was endorsed by the AFL.

The incident, which Liberatore admitted was an act of stupidity, also counts as a strike under the AFL's three-strikes illicit drugs policy.

That means Liberatore must undergo AFL-driven drug education and face target-testing.

If he were to attract two more strikes he could be suspended for up to 18 matches.

Liberatore, who won the Chris Grant Medal as the Dogs' best first-year player last season, expressed his remorse.

"I am deeply sorry for my actions and want to sincerely apologise to everyone, especially my family, teammates, coaches, supporters and all those connected with the club, for my stupidity," he said in a statement.

"I will be doing everything in my power to learn from this and to earn back the trust and respect of those around me."

Bulldogs' chief executive Simon Garlick said there was no place for such behaviour at the club.

"To say we are all completely disappointed in Tom is an absolute understatement," he said.

"We expect Tom to take this time to reflect on his behaviour and the impact it has had on those around him, especially his family, teammates, coaches and all those associated with the club."

Garlick said the club would support the young player after his "grave error of judgment".

"Tom has made a mistake but, as one of ours, we will help him to learn from this experience and become a better person and player for it."

A police spokesman said officers had attended outside a King Street nightclub at 3.30am (AEST) on Sunday and found a 20-year-old man lying on a footpath, allegedly dropping in and out of consciousness.

"The man from Essendon North regained consciousness and was taken home by a family member," the spokesman told AAP.

The spokesman confirmed the man was later interviewed by police for alleged drug offences and placed on a drug diversion program.

No charges will be laid.

Liberatore has played 33 AFL games, including 17 of a possible 18 this season, picking up 24 touches in Saturday's loss to North Melbourne.

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