BigTrancerCaptains back AFL on drug code
By Dan Oakes and Peter Blucher
July 14, 2005
St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt and his Brisbane Lions counterpart Michael Voss yesterday urged the AFL not to bow to pressure by signing the World Anti-Doping Agency accord.
Riewoldt cast doubt on whether the AFL Players Association would back any move by the AFL to sign the drug code while Voss said he would be "really disappointed" if the league reversed its stance.
After meetings between the AFL and WADA in New Zealand on Tuesday, WADA director-general David Howman said he believed the league, which stands to lose millions in government funding if it does not sign the accord, would become compliant within a week.
AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said yesterday the league was keen to step into line on the drugs issue. "We want to become compliant with WADA, we're just in negotiations," he said on radio 3AW.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou played down the possibility of conflict with the players' association, saying that the league had kept it up to speed on the issue.
Although WADA and the AFL test for performance enhancers all year round, WADA tests for other illicit drugs in competition only while the AFL tests for them 44 weeks a year. Unlike WADA, the league advocates an educational rather than punitive approach if a player tests positive for drugs such as cannabis.
Voss, a former member of the players' association executive, said in The Sunday Age this month that any decision by the league to abandon that code would raise issues of "integrity, trust, commitment and the relationship between the AFL and the players' association".
Yesterday he said he would "lose a little bit of faith" if the AFL adopted the WADA code.
Voss does not agree with the WADA requirement to identify first offenders caught with illicit drugs in their system in preference to the AFL system, under which players get private counselling.
"I don't believe putting someone up on a pedestal and making an example of them through the media helps them rehabilitate from whatever problem they have," he said. "There are bigger issues than just trying to make an example out of someone - it's about trying to rehabilitate and help the person.
"The method the AFL has is very, very good from a player welfare point of view . . . let's see how it works for a little while and if it doesn't work, then change it back. I don't think the WADA code really suits a contact sport. It's established for competitions like Olympics, world championships and one-off events like that."
Riewoldt said the existing code was far more appropriate for the AFL. "I think it will be interesting to see whether, first of all, the AFL adopts the policy, because I think they'd probably have to talk to the AFLPA, because only six months ago they signed off on a new code, so I think that will have to happen first before anything is set in concrete," Riewoldt said.
"I think the policy we've got in place at the moment is really good, it's about education rather than the name and shame sort of approach that WADA adopts. I think across the board, most players would like to see the existing policy stay."
The players' association could not be contacted last night.