Illicit drugs policy is working: AFL - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Illicit drugs policy is working: AFL

By Guy Hand 28/08/2008 07:45:15 PM Comments (0)

The AFL will keep the three-strikes component of its controversial recreational drugs policy, revealing two players who would have been named and shamed under a two-strikes rule were being treated for mental illness at the time they tested positive.

There were 14 failed illicit drugs tests in 2007 - among them three players who tested positive for a second time.

Under the three-strikes policy, a player is not suspended or his name made public until a third offence - a requirement which has led to the league being labelled soft on drugs.

But AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said the special circumstances surrounding two players who had tested positive twice last year were proof the league should not name, shame and sanction until a third offence.

"What came up in the results was that two players who tested positive in the last 12 months - both players were being treated for mental illness," Demetriou said.

"That further vindicated our testing regime from the point of view of making sure that players are given a second chance.

"We are determined to have a policy that works. We refuse to have a policy that names and shames and benefits no one."

While the 14 positive tests for drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana is an increase on the nine players who tested positive to similar recreational drugs in 2006, Demetriou said the league had carried out more than double the number of drug tests in 2007.

That means a smaller percentage of players have returned positives, with more than 1,100 tests carried out last year compared to 486 in 2006.

But the AFL introduced a number of tweaks to the illicit drugs policy, including carrying out testing on players' hair samples during the upcoming off-season and imposing suspended fines and bans for first and second failed drug tests.

The changes include:

* A suspended fine of $5,000 for the first failed test and a six-week suspended sentence for the second;

* Both sanctions only come into play when a third positive drug test is recorded, in addition to the maximum 12-week ban which remains in force for the third strike under the policy;

* Testing to be increased with up to 1,500 illicit drug tests to be conducted over a 12-month period;

* Every AFL player to be tested out of competition for illicit drugs at least once a year;

* Where multiple failed tests have occurred at a club, the club's chief executive officer will be informed of the failed tests but the players' identities will remain confidential;

* Failed tests of two or less will be erased from a player's record after four years; and

* Where players with positive tests on their record are traded or drafted, their new club medical officer is made aware of the failed test.

The AFL Players' Association (AFLPA), which has been heavily involved in formulating the policy, said it supported the changes.

"We are determined to put the health and welfare of players first," AFLPA president and Richmond player Joel Bowden said.

"Sometimes people make the wrong choice or a bad decision. We want to help rehabilitate, educate, monitor and counsel. We don't want to cast them aside."

The AFL's illicit drugs policy involves testing players out of competition times, and is in addition to the normal drug-testing procedures the sport carries out for performance enhancing substances and recreational drugs on matchdays.

The NRL has a two-strikes policy for positive tests to illicit drugs in out-of-competition testing.

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