The Western Bulldogs have launched an investigation after footage surfaced showing star Bailey Smith holding a bag of white powder at a party, prompting the cult-hero midfielder to admit in late 2021 that he was in possession of an illegal substance. when he “went out of control” amid struggles with his mental health.
Smith and Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains confirmed the midfielder had been shown using an illegal substance in the months following the Bulldogs’ big final loss in 2021, but did not say whether he had ingested it. The Bulldogs and the AFL’s integrity unit are now investigating the content and how it appeared on social media.
“I was recently made aware of the presence of content on social media showing me using an illegal substance,” Smith said in a statement on Saturday. “When dealing with this, there is a great temptation to speak in vague generalities and avoid the issue. However, I am determined to learn the lessons of my past and become a better person in the future.
“After much thought, I am now in a position to confess that at the end of 2021 I indulged in behavior of which I am deeply ashamed. I have no excuse for that behavior, but my mental health in that period after the grand finale deteriorated dramatically, and I got out of control, leading to poor decision-making and actions at the time.
Smith unreservedly apologized to his family, teammates, the Bulldogs, the AFL and both the club and his own sponsors, saying he took full ownership of the mistakes he had made.
Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains said Smith had recently dealt with “a lot of challenges and pressures off the field” and stressed that while that didn’t excuse his behaviour, the club would continue to support him.
“We are extremely disappointed to have seen social media content showing Bailey Smith an illegal substance,” Bains said. “This content was captured after the 2021 AFL season, while the players were on personal leave. We absolutely do not condone our players being involved in illegal substances and are convinced that players are properly trained on what constitutes appropriate behavior.”
The AFL said Bulldogs and Smith management had warned them about the social media content on Saturday. “The AFL will interview Smith in the coming days regarding the rise of the social media content and the context surrounding it,” the league said in a statement. “An outcome of that investigation will be communicated in due course.”
AFL Players’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh said the players’ union would support Smith and was confident the Bulldogs would do the same.
Smith shot to cult hero status last year, with his hot form and signature mullet making him one of the most recognizable players in the league. The 21-year-old is one of the most popular players in the game, with over 370,000 followers on Instagram – more than Dustin Martin and Lance Franklin.
Smith is currently serving a two-game ban for headbutting Zach Tuohy of Geelong. “I understand that what happened outside of what is expected of AFL players,” Smith said after the incident. “Unfortunately, I let my emotions get the better of me, which doesn’t suit me. I am determined to come back in a few weeks to continue to give 100 percent for my team-mates and the club.”
Three-time Premiership skipper Luke Hodge urged the Bulldogs to keep a close eye on Smith’s well-being. The Bulldogs (6-6) say goodbye this week before taking on the Giants next Saturday.
Bailey, the former number six in the AFL draw, had a stellar finals campaign in 2021 and was a key cog in the Bulldogs’ lead up to the grand final, where they were defeated by the Melbourne Demons. The out-of-contract midfielder would go on to become one of the club’s highest earning players and is reportedly working on a contract worth around $800,000.
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