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Bench changes will drive players to EPO: McGuire

The next changes to AFL rules have not yet been announced but there is already passionate reaction to the prospect of a cap on interchange rotations.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire this morning told his Triple M radio audience that the potential rule change may force players to try performance-enhancing drugs.

"They're driving players into taking EPO," McGuire said, linking an off-season AFL technicality to the worldwide outrage at cycling's doping saga engulfing the sport's biggest name Lance Armstrong.

"What's the logical conclusion to players being run off their feet and having to stay on the ground longer?" McGuire asked.

"The unintended consequence of these things is that you will drive players to look to be able to stay on the ground longer and I don't think they've thought it through."

Erythopoietin (EPO) is a blood booster which aids endurance by improving the blood's ability to carry oxygen to muscles.

Obsessed with reducing the capacity of players to form packs around stoppages, the AFL is looking to further refine its interchange rules, after introducing a substitute in 2012.

The Laws of the Game committee considered a two interchange/two subs system and a cap of 80 interchanges per game. It is widely believed the cap found their approval.

Outspoken committee member Kevin Bartlett used his SEN program to spruik the virtues of a cap.

"I've been very strong that I believe the game is full of congestion, with too many players around the ball, and the game would be far better off if we were able to spread those players around the ground," Bartlett said on his SEN radio show.

"I believe by having a cap it would enhance the game."

Many players, coaches, and fans believe changes intended to further fatigue players were premature.

The chief executive of the AFL Players' Association, Matt Finnis, told afl.com.au at the weekend that players were still adapting to this year's changes.

"Players are concerned at the pace of rule changes occurring and would prefer the recent change to a 3:1 interchange structure to be maintained for a period which allows meaningful analysis of the intended and unintended consequences of the rule on both the game and its players," Finnis said.

"To simply rely on increasing fatigue levels of players has many potential implications which require significant consideration."

Most fans commenting on Caroline Wilson's article on the subject on Tuesday morning were critical.

Reader Mick said at 9.26am: “I agree, the committee have been notorious for making a rule, then making an additional rule to counteract the reaction of the first. The interchange is a primary example. They reduced the bench to a 3 man, and surprise surprise the number of rotations go up. The limit of human endurance has not changed so instead of fewer rests for longer, the players rest more often for a shorter time in order to keep performing. And now they want to cap the interchange movements? If the bench was kept as 4 man in the first place this would be completely unnecessary.”

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