PM weighs into Cousins drug controversy - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

PM weighs into Cousins drug controversy

By Robert Grant and Adam Cooper 23/03/2007 06:50:34 PM Comments (0)

The Prime Minister weighed into the AFL's illicit drugs controversy, but league chief executive Andrew Demetriou rejected John Howard's call for a tougher policy.

A day after Cousins' father stated that the former Brownlow Medallist had a problem that "relates to substance abuse", the Prime Minister called on the league to review its three-strikes policy for players who test positive to illicit drugs.

Howard wants the same zero-tolerance approach to illicit drugs that the AFL has in its standard anti-doping policy.

He said a review of the policy was overdue.

"I would certainly say that," Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"But I am not taking the opportunity to have a go at (AFL chief executive Andrew) Demetriou or the AFL Commission, it's not an easy job.

"You asked me my opinion and you can't be tough enough when it comes to drugs."

On Thursday, Federal Treasurer and keen Essendon fan Peter Costello also called on the AFL to take a tougher stance.

The AFL has flagged more testing for illicit drugs, in the wake of the Cousins crisis and widespread speculation about the extent of the problem among its players.

But Demetriou said the AFL's illicit drugs code was working and was "very similar" to the federal government's approach to treating illicit drug use.

While agreeing with the Prime Minister about the need for a zero tolerance of drugs, Demetriou stressed the need to help players who test positive for the first or second time.

The third time a player tests positive for illicit drugs, he fronts the AFL tribunal.

"What we want to do, which is part of our policy, is wrap our arms around Ben Cousins, get him rehabilitated, get him healthy first and foremost because he's a person - and if he plays football or not that's secondary," Demetriou said.

"I think he's got serious issues that are much deeper than people understand and I'm aware of some of them and we need to help him.

"I think he's got issues that aren't just the issues that relate to substance abuse, I think he's got some deep psychological issues."

Demetriou said the illicit drugs policy was "very similar" to the Federal Government's view on how to treat people who use illicit substances.

"I share the Prime Minister's view that there's no place for drugs, I've got a zero tolerance personal view about drugs, I abhor the use of drugs," Demetriou said.

"But our policy that relates to trying to address the use of illicit drugs for our players is about taking a medical approach based on the best advice that we've received to try and rehabilitate players when they transgress for the first time."

As Cousins and his family contemplated a rehabilitation program for the fallen star, West Coast revealed it had known of his problems for eight months.

Eagles coach John Worsfold would like the club to have the power to test its players for drugs.

In a further call for changes to the illicit drugs code, Worsfold said testing initiated by the club would give the Eagles greater power to resolve their drugs problem.

The Eagles this week suspended Cousins indefinitely so he could deal with his substance abuse problems.

Worsfold said he and West Coast officials had heard late last year three Eagles players were taking illicit drugs.

He said the club had initiated an education policy involving workshops with drug counsellors.

The current AFL code prevents from testing its own players, but Worsfold said this power would have helped the Eagles stamp out the problem.

"We can't do our own testing, otherwise we probably would, to say to the guys `If you are thinking of going down this path we are going to try to catch you'," Worsfold said on the Nine Network's The Footy Show.

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