Summit looks to close drugs loophole and increase testing

A LOOPHOLE allowing AFL players to avoid a drug strike by self-reporting is likely to be closed on Wednesday, with the AFL also expected to consider a push to significantly increase hair testing of players.

The AFL’s drug summit is expected to address the issue of self-reporting by adopting one of a range of measures such as allowing players only one case of self-reporting and/or significantly increasing the medical counselling players would have to undertake having volunteered that they had taken drugs.

It is also likely to consider a push to significantly expand the number of hair tests. At present, about 100 tests are done on players at the end of the off-season as an indication of trends and to better target-test players.

These changes are among the measures that are likely to be put to the summit of AFL executives, club chief executives, presidents, AFL medical officers and others.

Hawthorn, the only club to have a player record three drug strikes, will be among the clubs pressing for clubs to be informed earlier of players who had failed drug strikes.

Hawks president Andrew Newbold also said the club backed changes to close the loopholes that had reportedly been exploited by some players, but he said those measures should only be taken in conjunction with a renewed focus on welfare, pastoral care and a determined look at the causes of drug use.

Newbold said it was clear clubs were not interested in discovering at-risk players to punish or sack them and so the argument against informing clubs of failed drug strikes was diminished.

The Players Association is, however, likely to resist the push for earlier notification as it believes anonymity to be a cornerstone of the players’ decision to consent to voluntarily sign up to the illicit drug policy.

Newbold echoed the sentiment of the majority of club presidents in calling for clubs to be told sooner. Now it is only after a player attracted a third drug strike and was facing suspension and a fine.

Players have self-reported drug use – admitting to deliberate use or claiming it be inadvertent – and thus avoided a drug strike as part of the policy not to punish players who were seeking help.

The present system makes it unlikely a player would fail a third strike as when they are on two strikes and are in the care of a doctor they are not subject to further drug testing.

”The earlier clubs are told the better, and making changes to the system of policing to make it more onerous particularly through the summer is a great policy mechanism but does not get to the heart of prevention,” Newbold said.

”Players are coming out of cloistered environments at school where everyone has been telling them how good they are and that they are going to be drafted, then they arrive at clubs and in some ways they are in as cloistered an environment.

”They are probably the most highly regulated young men in society and yet they’re young men on good incomes and who are often risk-taking personalities.”

Newbold said the evidence, statistically and anecdotally, was that the most dangerous time for player drug use was in the off-season.

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

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