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Clubs spy on player drug use

Date

Jake Niall

FRUSTRATED by not knowing whether their players have positive drug strikes under the existing system, a number of AFL clubs have resorted to covert intelligence gathering on their players' drug use, using current and former police and other means.

As the AFL considers the thorny question of whether clubs should know about drug use earlier than the third strike, it has emerged that some clubs have taken matters into their own hands, using not only former and current police contacts, but checking with hotels and nightclubs to verify their players' nocturnal activities and even employing private detectives for surveillance in extreme cases.

A number of clubs have confirmed that, unable to know whether their players are using illicit drugs under the AFL policy, they have chosen to ''risk manage'' by gathering as much information as possible on some players. Much of it, they said, was merely ''verification'' of tips, but they also wanted to know about potential problems before they arose.

These clubs contend that the illicit drugs policy - which keeps them out of the loop and confines knowledge of a positive test to the club doctors (and AFL medicos) - has encouraged them to take these ''underground'' measures to verify whether players are using drugs.

Clubs have confronted players with the information about drug use that they have gained from various sources. Senior officials at some clubs say that they would much prefer to avoid ''accusing'' players, that if they knew about the drug strikes they could have a more honest and open dialogue with the relevant player.

Clubs say they cannot rely on players being truthful about their drug use. One official said: ''Clubs are not relying on the players telling [clubs] themselves that they are taking drugs.''

Clubs believe that a player suspected of drug taking would be better served if his drug use was known to the club, thus creating a more collaborative way of dealing with the issue rather than one of suspicion and confrontation.

The use of private detectives, sources said, was rare and was not considered as effective as using police contacts, because current and ex-police had the ability to gain superior information on what players were doing and the specifics of the drug scene. One club source said ''verification'' of players using drugs had become more prevalent over the past 12 months.

Clubs say they have huge networks - including supporters - that often provide them with information about their players that they felt duty-bound to check out. On occasion, however, they also wanted to know if they had a problem with drugs or other potential ills that could damage the club and the player.

The clubs' push to be informed about the second positive drug tests, or ''strike'', under the illicit drugs code was the major reason for the AFL's drugs summit on Wednesday, when club chief executives heard presentations from AFL doctors and experts.

AFL medical officer Dr Peter Harcourt told the meeting the majority of players who recorded drug strikes had not bought the drugs.

23 comments

  • Taking the odd pinger does not mean you are a drug addict. They are better for you than alcohol in any case. Ben Cousins showed they were not performance effecting and he was at the very worst end of the spectrum. You could say experimenting a bit is part of growing up. Players are now expected to be perfect. Everything to everyone. It's not realistic. Three strikes is fine. Clubs, media, should worry about football.

    Commenter
    Wowzers
    Date and time
    February 01, 2013, 7:57AM
    • Your comment outstands me Wowser? so the odd pinger is okay, sure lets take a leap of faith like say "Lance Armstrong" start with one and ends up an addiction. Your comment I find vulgar and distasteful. You've put me off VFL AFL for a long time to come I'm afraid my bum ain't going through their turnstiles. Drug inquiry into footy "LONG OVERDUE" will deflate some egos immensely can I lend the governing board my hat pin and salary cap across all would be nice?

      Commenter
      Pickled Herring
      Location
      Frankston
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 8:07AM
    • Pickled Herring takes the cake for cracked logic. So one comment by a random, anonymous person, who expresses a view with which the author disagrees, is a sufficient justification for boycotting football? Sorry, but it doesn't make sense. Non sequitur.

      Commenter
      Greg Platt
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 8:59AM
    • Ha,

      Better than you for alcohol? Which mystery batch of ecstasy are you talking about today?(and what ever other poisons are in it and at what unknown strength).

      And how much Alcohol are you talking about? Suggesting a beer or a glass of wine is worse? or a whole case?

      Ecstasy might be more enjoyable for some.(given it is a drug that gives a wound up high instead of a depressed low), but you cannot seriously suggest it is any "better" for you.

      It might be a drug that could be made in a regulated clean environment and then taken in moderation to have less of an impact on a certain amount of alcohol on your health. But your comparing Apples with Oranges Wowzers.

      Commenter
      Barney
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 9:25AM
    • MDMA was legally prescribed up until the 70's as a marital aid and it's primary effect is the release of serotonin which is naturally produced by the body. It's was never addictive as the body can only produce so much. Alcohol on the other hand is addictive and causes many long term health problems.

      Pointing out that bad batches of ecstasy kills people is true, several deaths a year worldwide. However dodgy batches of alcohol kills tens of thousands a year, such as the poor kid who died from methanol poisoning in Bali. However the real kicker is that legally available alcohol kills many more thousands of deaths compared to legally available MDMA - which does not exist. If MDMA was legally available and regulated, the few deaths a year would never occur.

      Commenter
      Roja
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 11:54AM
    • The only drugs players should be tested for are performance enhancing drugs, AFL players are no different to every other Australian so why should they be singled out for illicit drug tests, if they're obliged to take these tests so should every other Australian, if the AFL players association had any sense they'd go back on the deal they did to allow players to be tested for illicit drugs as this is the only way to get rid of this controversy.

      Commenter
      Bushy
      Location
      Cressy
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 12:02PM
    • I watched my brother as an alcoholic waste his life for 10 years and get no-where. After he started on the "Odd pinger" his life was destroyed in 12 months, leaving him with severe mental issues and a stint inside. Alcohol can definitely hold you back in life and lead you to some poor choices, but there's only so much damage it can do compared to "recreational drugs"

      Commenter
      Stick to the booze
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 12:57PM
    • @Stick to the booze

      That's not real smart advice Stick to the booze, the problem is illicit drugs are all classed the same when in fact last year in Australia over 3000 people under the age of 30 died from alcohol related diseases or accidents and not one died from cannabis or ecstasy use.

      Commenter
      Bushy
      Location
      Cressy
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 3:16PM
  • Shouldn't we be talking about performance enhancing drugs as well? In my mind, that's a primary issue which gets swept under the carpet. Some teams look like they push through the long season almost with inhuman ability (taking into account their stamina built up from pre-season training). Better drug screening for performance enhancing drugs needs to be addressed.

    Commenter
    Bucklr01
    Date and time
    February 01, 2013, 8:10AM
    • No, no no! Its only those cheating cyclists; everyone else is just so, so clean (says with tongue firmly in cheek).

      If you want to understand the problem, put Barry Bonds into your search engine.

      This is the elephant in the room; but the AFL can easily distract with 'tough on drugs' tosh.

      Commenter
      kepler-22b
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 11:55AM

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