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Clubs to target-test players

AFL players will be drug tested more than ever before as part of a raft of reforms to the competition's illicit drugs policy, to be outlined at Thursday's conference of the 18 clubs.

Clubs look certain to be granted the power to target-test players, but will have to pay for those tests.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has confirmed the game's working party into illegal drugs will present its report to the club bosses, having completed a series of meetings since it was established in January.

Under the proposed reforms:

■ Clubs will be granted the power to request increased general testing of its players, as well as target-testing of specific footballers;

■ Spreadsheets detailing player drug activity will be presented to all clubs as often as twice a year, with the players' names withheld although details of the illicit substances revealed;

■ The three-strikes policy will be upheld, with confidentiality remaining a cornerstone of the policy;

■ The AFL could establish more hair tests during players' holiday breaks, but the results will remain confidential and outside the three-strikes policy;

■ The self-reporting loophole will be removed, with players potentially restricted to one lifeline;

■ The AFL and the clubs will work to introduce increased medical and welfare resources and supervision specifically for players with mental health and/or addiction issues.

Demetriou refused to discuss details of the working group's proposed reforms, but said: ''I think it's fair to say our work has finished and the pillars of our illicit drugs policy remain.

''The proposed amendments will be put to the clubs and the AFL

Players Association and then to the Commission. [We are] confident the amendments will be supported.''

Despite a push by some clubs to introduce hair testing - which can trace illegal drug activity within the last two to three months - during the home-and-away season and finals, this relatively revolutionary procedure will not be permitted during the season or as part of the three-strikes policy.

The reforms look certain to be the subject of debate at the meeting of club chiefs, which will also include an address from AFL players' boss Matt Finnis.

While Finnis was initially at odds with Collingwood chief Gary Pert, a key contributor to the working party, the AFL, its players and clubs, along with medical officer Hugh Seward appear to be in general agreement over the proposed changes.

The drugs policy came under fire after the CEOs met late last year and Pert spoke of ''volcanic'' illicit drug activity presenting a significant risk to players and clubs during the players' holiday period.

The move by the players to lengthen their post-season break and not return to their clubs until December - a move strongly supported by Demetriou - has placed them on a collision course with some clubs pushing to at least postpone the extended holiday provisions until the end of 2014.

That too will be hotly debated at the club talks on Thursday.

The illicit drugs working party was established in January, with initial member Ian Robson removed after the Essendon supplements scandal was revealed. Ultimately, club chiefs Travis Auld (Gold Coast) and Stuart Fox (Hawthorn) joined Pert, Finnis and Demetriou to thrash out reforms.

The propensity for players to avoid a second or third strike by reporting themselves to the AFL doctors was identified as a key avoidance tactic.

It was also found the game needed to pour more resources into welfare and medical programs to ensure footballers suffering from depression and other health disorders did not fall victim to a dependence on illegal drugs.

While the players have demanded the three-strikes policy remain the cornerstone of the policy, along with assurances of strict individual confidentiality, the working party accepted that the illicit drugs crisis that erupted at West Coast in 2007 could have been better handled had the Eagles been given detailed knowledge of the drug strikes against its players, along with details of the substances involved.

5 comments so far

  • The clubs should be told which of their players is using illicit drugs. This way they might be able to prevent a players continued use of substances. This is the only way to nip drug use in the bud. The problem with not telling the clubs the names of players testing positive for illicit drugs is that if a player gets three strikes the club will be in shock and go into damage control. If the names of players are given to the clubs this situation can be totally avoided. I am sure if the coaching staff knew Benny Cousins was using drugs they would have got him the help he needed earlier.

    A. Pincombe
    Date and time
    May 16, 2013, 11:44AM
    • If I tested positive for cocaine at my work (I am not an AFL footballer) I would be at the very least fired, or in the worst case defending myself in court because ILLICIT ARE ILLEGAL. But, if I played in the AFL then nobody would even know until I had tested positive 3 times so I would be 'above the law'. No wonder players are not deterred from getting involved in lower classes of drugs (such as performance enhancing hormones etc.). Whether coaches know or not, there needs to be a culture change at the very top of the sport to get rid of the problem. Otherwise, AFL will just end up being in the same class of 'sport' as body building - everybody is presumably on something and nobody cares. The AFL '3 strikes' policy is the worst drug policy in sports worldwide.

      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 1:45PM
      • So how do you deal with the 2-10% of your current work colleagues who would have traces of illegal / illicit drugs in their bloodstream whilst in the workplace? Just a trace indicating past consumption, not enough to affect their work performance in any way. Oh that's right, you don't test so you don't even know! Do you think that all your workmates would voluntarily undergo illicit drug testing as do AFL players? I doubt it!

        I'm not condoning illicit drug taking by sportspeople or anybody else, but I like to see apples compared to apples. Tell me what other organisation, sporting or not, tests for illicit drugs as does the AFL?

        Viv R
        Date and time
        May 16, 2013, 4:22PM
      • Isn't the crime possession of the drug concerned, paricularly possession for sale, rather than having a trace amount in your blood. Sure a trace in the blood suggests a past illegal act but is not in itself adequate evidence of a past illegal act.

        Fired? Maybe if your company has a clear illicit drugs policy, and particularly if you are drug affected in the work place. Defending yourself in court? On what charge?

        Viv R
        Date and time
        May 16, 2013, 4:29PM
    • What a joke? ASADA is trying to clean up drug use and the AFL continue to cover it up and take no action. If the NRL had put this statement out the media would have been ruthless but the good old AFL and friends cruise along. Should be the UFL (untouchable Football League). Basically they could all be on drugs and the worlds worst sporting drug policy would cover them. This cannot be serious.

      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 5:05PM

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