Policy causes friction

DEPENDING on who you ask, the AFL’s illicit drugs policy is a world leader, soft on illegal substances or dangerous in its limitations.

Since it was established by the league and the players’ union in 2005, the policy’s backers claim no other sport has addressed the scourge of recreational drugs like the AFL has.

The AFL and the AFL Players Association claim 20 per cent of Australian men aged between 20 and 30 use drugs, so to have recorded six positive tests each in 2011 and 2010 is evidence that the messages are getting through to footballers.

The policy is aimed at deterring players from using drugs and if they are, providing support.

North Melbourne star Drew Petrie, an AFLPA board member, said this week that education was more effective than punishment.

”It’s about educating and player welfare at heart. It’s not about hanging a player after a first offence,” he said.

But by opening the discussion on recreational drugs – what players do in their own time – the AFL attracted its share of critics.

Club bosses, led by former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, have been critical of a system in which only club doctors are informed if a player tests positive to illegal substances. That issue was especially relevant for Kennett, when the Hawks only learnt Travis Tuck had a drug problem when he was found unconscious in 2010.

The self-reporting element, where players can admit drug use to the AFL with impunity, is another major sticking point.

The number of failed drug tests among AFL players has dropped since 2005, but the number of tests also declined from 2010 to 2011.

AFL chief Andrew Demetriou has predicted a spike in the number of positive tests in the 2012 figures, which will be released this year.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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