NEWS: The Age 14 Jul 05: Captains back AFL on drug code

BigTrancer

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Captains 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.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/realfooty/news/afl/captains-back-afl-on-drug-code/2005/07/13/1120934301817.html
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Fry-d-

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If they change to the way the World Anti Doping want to run things a lot of players could end up in a lot of trouble in the off season ;)

The AFL approach fits the sport and the players the way things are done now. I hope they aren't forced to make radical changes just because of financial pressure.
 

Fry-d-

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AFL signs drugs code
July 19, 2005

THE AFL has agreed to comply with the world anti-doping agency (WADA) drug code, in a backdown from its earlier stance.



Reaction ... Demetriou's decision will not please everyone. Pic: Sal George

AFL chief executive officer Andrew Demetriou informed Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp of the league's intention at a meeting in Melbourne today, a spokesman for Senator Kemp said.

The AFL had agreed to become compliant with the WADA code by November 1, he said.

The AFL had been the only sporting body in Australia which had refused to sign up to the code, which was set to cost it about $1 million in Federal Government funding.

"The Minister is very pleased that they will become WADA compliant," the spokesman said.

The league held talks with the Australian Sports Commission last week, however, at which the ASC indicated it would reinstate $2 million in funding when the AFL became WADA compliant.

The main sticking point for the AFL was over sanctions for non-performance enhancing drugs, such as cannabis.

Under the AFL's current drugs code, players receive confidential counselling for first and second offences.

Under the WADA code, they will receive heavier penalties for testing positive to illicit drugs on match-days.

WADA chief Dick Pound lambasted the code last week for its failure to comply.
"The AFL has had their head in the sand over this and part of the deal in sport is you don't take drugs," Pound said.

But his comments came as Brisbane captain Michael Voss and St Kilda skipper Nick Riewoldt turned up the heat on the league not to bow to pressure and sign the accord.

"I'd lose a little bit of faith if they decided to go against whatever they already have in place," said Voss, who sits on the executive of the AFL Players' Association.

"What people don't realise is it's pretty stringent, the actual rules."

AFLPA chief executive Brendon Gale agreed.

"It's not about naming and shaming under our code," he said last week.

"We have sought the finest medical advice on alcohol and drugs and we haven't spoken to bureaucrats or sports administrators."

Popund, though, hit back, saying: "You can't hide behind privacy fearing you may get found out when you're a high-profile athlete."

AAP

From Fox Sports
 

Pleonastic

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I think basically the AFL tests more frequently than the WADA code requires during the season, but does not do any testing in the off-season. WADA stipulates that random tests must be done over the entire year, whether in-season or not. WADA also has a policy of making any positive tests public immediately, whereas the AFL has a three stage approach where first the player is warned privately, then the coach and club doctors are told on a second offence, and then their name is made public on a third offence.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong though, cos I'm going totally off my memory here.
 

hoptis

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Basically, under pressure from the Federal Government, the AFL has had to give up a process that aims to address non-performance enhancing drug use as a health/player welfare issue and replaced that with a punitive approach.

It's a victory for zero tolerance over harm minimisation.

Drugs anger

By Karen Lyon
July 20, 2005

An AFL player who tests positive to marijuana will face bans of up to a year for a first offence from November after the AFL was forced to abandon its own drug code yesterday.

In an embarrassing backdown, the AFL succumbed to intense pressure from the Federal Government and agreed to comply with the hardline stance laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which demands the public naming of all offenders and harsh penalties in the case of recreational drug use.

Under the threat of losing federal funding for all levels of the game if it did not comply with the WADA code, and conscious of the negative perception that was growing around its stance, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou yesterday informed federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp of the league's intention to comply with the WADA code by November 1.

At yesterday's announcement of the decision, an angry Demetriou barely spoke, only confirming the AFL's new stance before leaving and refusing to answer questions.

Last night, Brisbane Lions captain Michael Voss, a member of the AFL Players Association executive when the drug code was negotiated with the league, said players would be angry about the AFL U-turn.

"It would want to be a very good reason because at face value, there isn't a player in the game who can be happy with what has happened," he said. "Sitting up here in sunny Queensland, it's hard to know exactly and precisely what has happened, but I'll be very interested to know what the AFL's line of thinking is."

While the AFL is expected to start meeting with its clubs and other stakeholders next week, it will hold talks with the players' association later today.

Although the AFLPA understands the league had little choice but to accept the WADA code, it is believed the association has grave concerns about how the new system will work and the consequences for its members.

Last night, the association released a statement, saying it was not surprised by yesterday's developments, "given the significant political and financial pressures which have been focused on the AFL in recent times".

"The AFLPA maintains some concerns with aspects of the WADA code which are shared by a number of independent legal, medical and health professionals and academics," it said.

"The AFLPA hopes that some of these legitimate concerns can be addressed in amending the current doping policy."

Earlier this week, Demetriou said the AFL wanted to maintain its 44-week out-of-competition testing for illicit drugs, something not demanded by WADA.

The WADA code is only applied to match-day testing and sets up a situation in which there will be different penalties for the same offence depending on the day the player is tested.

The AFL decision is a big win for the Government, which has now achieved its stated aim of bringing all sporting bodies in Australia into line with the WADA.

"The AFL now joins all major sporting codes in Australia in becoming WADA code-compliant," Kemp said. "Australia has been acknowledged as world leaders in fighting drugs in sport and will continue to pursue a sporting environment in which athletes are able to compete fairly."

With the AFL keen to gain more financial funding from the Federal Government in coming years, and with almost $2 million of current funding — about $585,000 to the AFL and around $1.3 million to state and other leagues — on the line, the AFL yesterday only reluctantly released a short statement from its chief executive.

"The AFL has today told the Federal Government it will be WADA compliant by November 1, 2005," he said.

- with Peter Blucher
From The Age
 

hoptis

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Saw this in the paper on Saturday, only found the online version today. Well worth a read.

Cannabis scrutiny excessive
By Tim Lane
July 23, 2005

Amid the whole hue and cry about the AFL and the WADA code, one essential question remains unanswered: why is cannabis, a non-performance-enhancing substance, on the banned list?

Dick Pound, the WADA chairman, could do no better than: "Part of the deal in sport is you don't take drugs." Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp, from many opportunities, has shed even less light on the matter.

One journalist who has been critical of the AFL on the issue was asked the question directly on radio. He could merely respond with: "You'd have to ask WADA."

We are back where we started. If it were not serious, it would be funny. Sportspeople are being singled out for scrutiny that neither you nor I would have to tolerate, yet this scrutiny has nothing at all to do with cheating at sport.

Under the camouflage of testing for performance-enhancing drugs, footballers and other sportspeople are being subjected to an unconscionable invasion of privacy.

What's more, they have now found themselves vilified for caring about it. They are cast as villains. They must be junkies. It's unimaginable that they are simply responsible young people who want to protect their personal rights.

Perhaps they are even bigger than that. Perhaps they see a world in which civil liberties are being challenged and they identify their own circumstance as potentially, and very conspicuously, at the thin end of a dangerous wedge. Football, as we are frequently reminded, can have great influence in the community. It can be used insidiously as well as for good.

That the players have become the bad guys for resisting what has been imposed on them is wrong. Senior sports administrators should be capable of understanding that. Senior politicians, too, but let's live in the real world.

A footballer who returns one positive test to marijuana will now find himself all over the pages of the paper and could be disqualified for a year. A second positive test and he is out for two years. A third and it's game over. His career is finished. How Shane Warne's long-tormented opponents must wish sport's new paternalism extended to adultery.

Like Warne's misdemeanours, the taking of marijuana is not recommended and may pose damaging consequences, but it ought to have nothing whatever to do with one's eligibility to play competitive sport.

Yes, it is against the law in this state, but so is driving a car above 60 km/h in a metropolitan zone and the latter is these days pursued far more rigorously by the authorities. Besides, it is for those authorities to police such matters, not for sports administrators. WADA's province is the globe and in some countries the use of cannabis is perfectly legal.

The reality is that WADA is wrong and hopefully it will soon wake up to that fact. Its banned list is not carved in stone. The Federal Government is also wrong in holding a gun to football's head as it clearly has done.

A government that has felt no responsibility to heed the view of the United Nations on the matter of going to war in Iraq, or to ratify an international agreement like the Kyoto Protocol, has apparently felt obliged to bludgeon its way to unequivocal observance of the WADA code. Either that or football has been touched by the Howard Government's rigidly conservative ideology on the problems of illicit drugs.

As for the AFL, it has paid a heavy price for trying to craft a code that treated breaches on their merits. It has been belittled, bullied and, for the moment at least, beaten. In opting for counselling as a first response to a positive test, it had sought to find middle ground on the matter of cannabis.

This week's outcome suggests that was its only hope of satisfying WADA and the government, despite the fact that any screening for the substance remains a debatable issue. Its intended out-of-competition testing procedure is perhaps well intended but fraught with problems for it and its players. In that area it could learn from WADA.

This bitter experience might also have been a learning experience on another front for Andrew Demetriou.

His much-reported Australia Day address on immigration obviously ruffled feathers on high perches in Canberra. While it's doubtful it affected an intransigent government's view of the WADA code, Demetriou had delivered a cheeky backhander and was now standing, wide open, under a hospital handpass. They did not miss him.
From The Age
 

fcuking_in_heaven

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"A government that has felt no responsibility to heed the view of the United Nations on the matter of going to war in Iraq, or to ratify an international agreement like the Kyoto Protocol, has apparently felt obliged to bludgeon its way to unequivocal observance of the WADA code. Either that or football has been touched by the Howard Government's rigidly conservative ideology on the problems of illicit drugs."


Thats golden. Really puts things in perspective.
 

hoptis

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Footy drugs testing finds 15 under the influence
By Michael Gleeson
March 10, 2006

At least 15 AFL players have recorded positive tests for recreational drugs after less than a year of the league's new testing regime.

One player has been confirmed to have returned two positive readings under the tests, which cover drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and marijuana.

The second positive reading leaves the player one step from a "third strike" and being publicly exposed and suspended under the Australian Sports Drug Agency's out-of-competition testing system.

AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson would not comment on the specific number of positive tests, but said yesterday the league had more than doubled the number of tests last year, which led to more positive results.

Players were told of the figure in a confronting presentation on illicit drugs by ASDA, the Victoria Police, club doctors and the AFL medical commissioners during the pre-season.

"It was pretty full on, so I suppose it was a bit of a reality check. I think everyone was pretty surprised to hear the 15 figure," said one player, who asked not to be named. The figure is believed to not have been a full-year result and consequently the number of positive tests could be higher. But players were advised that about 15 positive results had been returned in 2005.

Concerned at anecdotal reports of the incidence of illicit drug use, the AFL last year changed its regime to introduce a more targeted approach to testing for recreational drugs. It is understood about 400 tests were carried out by the ASDA last year. Part of the intention of the illicit drug talk this year was evidently to shock players into understanding both the extent of drug use and the health and welfare dangers.

"Under the AFL's illicit drugs policy we are testing more, we are testing at more high-risk times such as at recovery sessions, and with that we will catch more people if they are doing drugs," Mr Anderson said.

"We have more than doubled our testing for stimulants and deliberately targeted high-risk times, and if people take drugs they are at serious risk of being caught.

"ASDA say we have the most extensive illicit drugs testing regime of any sport in the country and so the likelihood is if you take drugs you will be caught."

AFL players are tested under two systems, ASDA and WADA. ASDA rules apply for out-of-competition (or non-match-day testing) and a player is given three strikes. On a third positive test he is publicly identified and faces suspension.

Under the WADA in-competition or match-day testing a player is summarily suspended for two years for any positive test.
From The Age
 

Fry-d-

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Only 15? I wonder how many players they tested, I would have thought the number would have been higher in the off season.
 

phase_dancer

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They're probably all onto new phenethylamines and tryptamines that aren't as yet tested for, sourced from the same people peddling the non-screenable performance enhancing compounds ;)

There must be enormous money (as in a massive market) in supplying "invisible" drugs to people on typical player salaries.
 

hoptis

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Star fails drug test twice
By Jim Wilson and Damian Barrett
March 11, 2006

A HIGH-PROFILE player from a non-Victorian AFL club has twice tested positive for illegal drugs.

The player, whom Mews Limited newspapers have chosen not to name, is believed to have returned two positive samples for illicit drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy.

Under the AFL's out-of-competition drug code, the player's name is kept secret from club executives and the AFL until a third offence is recorded.

AFL drug testers clearly focused on certain players during their 2005 program of 472 tests.

One player was tested four times and seven players three times; 64 players were tested twice.

Of the tests, 336 were done out of competition and 136 during the season.

The AFL's illicit drugs policy covers out-of-competition testing; testing during competition falls under World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines.

In 2004, 17 positive tests were recorded, and the AFL said yesterday that the number of positive drug tests last year did not exceed this. In 2003, 14 players tested positive.

AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said the illicit drugs policy, introduced last year, went further than WADA regulations. He said that none of the players who tested positive in 2005 would have been caught under WADA's code.

"We are testing more for stimulants, we are testing more at high-risk times when players might be taking drugs, and the reality is that while players faced a far higher chance of getting caught, the numbers of positive tests has not changed," Mr Anderson said.

AFL players who test positive must enter an approved confidential treatment, education and rehabilitation program.

For both the first two positive out-of-competition tests, the AFL's medical officer is obliged to inform only the player's club medical officer. Third and subsequent offences will result in a charge of conduct unbecoming, carrying a maximum 12-week suspension.

But a player might escape penalty.

Penalties under WADA guidelines are significantly greater: a one-year ban is available as a sanction for a first offence.

A second offence could result in a two-year ban and a third a life ban.

Last night, the Federal Government praised the AFL for its testing.

"Any move to stamp out drugs in sport and continue Australia's strong anti-doping policy is welcomed by the Government," Sports Minister Rod Kemp said.

WADA officials, in Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games, said it was the AFL's call on what penalty to impose on players out of competition.

"We liken it to conduct-testing more than anything else," WADA executive David Howman said.

"But the AFL is doing something, and there are a lot of tests."

The AFL was the last major Australian sport to sign the WADA code, after intense pressure from the Federal Government.

The Australian Sports Commission had threatened to slash funding.

Western Bulldogs captain Luke Darcy said yesterday the positive tests were disappointing.

"But I'd be interested to know if it (the number of positive results) was any more than (for) 18 to 30-year-olds in general," he said. "If it was 100 per cent more than your normal 18-to-30-year-old group, then it would be more of a concern. It's an issue in society more than it was 30 years ago.

"It's a snapshot of a demographic, and I think it would be the same for plumbers, lawyers and carpenters."
From Fox Sports
 

hoptis

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Looking for substance as drugs take hold
By Mike Sheahan
11 Mar 2006

ANDREW Demetriou and David Howman took coffee and sandwiches yesterday.

The AFL chief executive and the World Anti-Doping Agency's director-general spent more than an hour together at AFL headquarters.

Given they met on the day it was revealed 16 AFL players had tested positive to illicit substances last year, it sounds like a meeting of huge significance.

Coincidence, not significance, Demetriou said last night. "It's been in my diary for months," he said.

"We did chat about the results and we also spoke in general about drug programs. I found it very productive."

Demetriou played down the significance of the results, saying the AFL had tripled the number of tests last year.

As I understand it, 16 players tested positive to illegal drugs, one fewer than the corresponding figure for the 12 months to September, 2004. The breakdown of the 2004 figure was cannabis (marijuana) 14, other illicit drugs three.

The mix changed last year, with cocaine and ecstasy responsible for a much larger share of the 16 breaches. Yet more evidence of an emerging drug culture in football, as foreshadowed by prominent player manager Ricky Nixon more than six years ago.

Nixon's warning, made to AFL officials and club heavyweights at a workshop at Cape Schanck, raised cocaine abuse as a concern in football for the first time.

He said abuse of what were then known as recreational drugs, now more appropriately referred to as illicit drugs, was "a big issue".

Three years later, the Herald Sun incurred the wrath of the AFL for a special based on a similar warning by another prominent player manager, Craig Kelly, accompanied by damning comments from former Sydney Swan Dale Lewis.

More recently, we went to the AFL on rumours of an impending revelation of drug abuse at alarming levels.

"No alarm bells," we were told.

Nixon could not be reached yesterday, but Kelly said: "I think, on the whole, everyone's pretty responsible.

"If you're contracted, if it's in season, and you're doing drugs, you're just an idiot.

"Apart from the legal side of it, they sign an agreement (with their club) that has a set of rules that need to be upheld and respected."

While the authorities rightly point to the fact the breaches average out at one per club for 12 months, the anecdotal evidence continues to suggest a growing problem.

The authorities also say none of the breaches involve performance-enhancing substances.

Several players from two of the most powerful clubs in the competition continue to be linked with drug use, as do two high-profile players at one Victorian club.

The rumours centre on cocaine and ecstasy.

Players at most, if not all clubs were briefed on the latest figures at special sessions during the off-season.

While the information is supposed to remain confidential, only the names were kept secret in an attempt to hammer the message home.

After Nixon issued his warning all those years ago, then AFL chief executive Wayne Jackson said: "As a result of the conference, we will be expanding (the drug awareness and testing programs) to include other social drugs including cocaine."

Expand they might, but the problem isn't going away.
From The Advertiser
 

hoptis

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Marijuana tests confirm AFL concern
By Jake Niall, Caroline Wilson and Michael Gleeson
March 14, 2006

A DISPROPORTIONATE number of indigenous players have tested positive to marijuana under the AFL's out-of-competition testing regime, heightening AFL concern about the impact of the new World Anti-Doping Agency drug code on Aboriginal players.

Sources have confirmed to The Age that the out-of-competition testing program has shown that Aboriginal players made up an extremely high percentage of positive tests to marijuana, the most widespread illicit drug.

There are 55 indigenous footballers on AFL lists in 2006 — about 8 per cent of all AFL players — and a much greater number of its stars, but The Age understands that indigenous players compromise several times that percentage — about 50 per cent in 2004 and close to 75 per cent in 2005 — of the positive tests to marijuana. The tests were all out of competition.

There is concern in club circles at the overwhelming proportion of positive tests involving indigenous players, a trend that has prompted senior club officials to alert the AFL of the problem. The AFL is already understood to have responded to club concerns and is already looking at establishing appropriate counselling services.

Cannabis accounts for the majority of the AFL's out of competition positive tests.

The AFL fought hard — and unsuccessfully — against the Federal Government's demand that it adopt the WADA drug code, on the grounds that as a non-performance-enhancing drug, cannabis should not carry such heavy penalties for positive tests in competition.

The positive tests to illicit drugs thus far — at least 15 players in 2005 — were all out of competition. Three players from non-Victorian clubs, including a premiership player, have recorded two positive tests to illicit drugs. A third positive test would force the player to face the tribunal.

The revelation of the disproportionate figures for indigenous players could create an image problem for the AFL, which has worked hard against racism and whose racial vilification rules were groundbreaking in Australian sport in the mid- 1990s.

The AFL has also placed great emphasis on development of indigenous players at grass roots level across Australia, viewing Aboriginal football as a significant source of talent and spectator appeal.

Marijuana poses a major problem for the league, too, because, unlike cocaine and ecstasy and amphetamines, the drugs stays within the user's system for several weeks. This makes it difficult to ascertain whether a test is in or out of competition.

The marijuana clause of the new AFL drug code was also strongly resisted by the players association, which continue to protest that such a test is a breach of the player's civil liberties.

The AFL could not be reached for comment last night.

Last Friday, The Age revealed that at least 15 players had tested positive to illicit drugs, with at least one player on the verge of a third strike, which would have led to them facing the tribunal and a potential ban.

A prominent player manager said yesterday he would press the AFL for a drug summit to reconsider the validity of tandem drug testing codes and evaluate if the current system is the most effective method of preventing drug use among players. Many player managers and clubs are troubled at the testing of players for drugs that are not performance enhancing.
From The Age

When a player tests positive the third time, and it won't be long looking at the statistics released about the testing results over the last few days, this has the potential to backfire on the AFL.

Some poor bastard is going to be outed to the media and his club, his reputation sullied and possibly have his career destroyed over a cannabis habit which most likely has little to no effect on his potential as a player.

Maybe then we might see some influential people in the game stand up and call for the WADA drug code to be dropped from the AFL.
 

ayjay

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It's fairly appalling that a player be taken to task for non-performance enhancing substance use. I saw a presentation a few years back on drugs in sport - the presenter mentioned a snow boarder who was stripped of the world title after testing positive to cannabis use, then getting it reinstated after successfully arguing that cannabis isn't performance enhancing.
According to the government's own advertising campaign (yeah I know - federal not state), you can't even play football if you smoke pot!! If some AFL players enjoy a few billies or a pill or two in their downtime, I'd say that's no-one's business but theirs.
 

Fry-d-

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If they start ruining footy players careers for a spliff in the off season that is just plain rediculous.
 

beepbeep

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I agree it seems a bit harsh, but hey nearly ever other major sporting athlete also get tested for rec drugs and can be banned for there use, why should AFL players be treated any different??? just because there is a big culture of drug use around footy clubs (rec drugs) both with AFL teams and local clubs I don't see why they should be exempt from it if other sportspersons arn't given a break to have some drugs and get baned, named and shamed....

They get paid the big bucks to play sport professionally then I think they should be able to accept that there are certain things they can and can not do, like taking illegal drugs... Responsibility has to been taken at some stage.
 

aunty establishment

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beepbeep said:
I agree it seems a bit harsh, but hey nearly ever other major sporting athlete also get tested for rec drugs and can be banned for there use, why should AFL players be treated any different???
Let me pose a question to your question. If you took a few months' leave from your job, then midway through the break, your boss rocked up and demanded you sit a drug test, how would you feel? My response would be "not so great about going back to work", personally.

I have had a few mates over the years who were/are AFL champions, including a couple at the absolute top of their game, who enjoyed nothing more than celebrating their season's performance with a good old fashioned bender. The rest of the year, they were really well-behaved, hardworking guys.

Just a perspective. If the media stopped reporting on these incidents, there would be no "sports drugs scandals" - another perspective - because people wouldn't know about them. But that's a debate for another thread, LOL =D
 
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hoptis

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Bell flags rebellion over drugs leak
By Michael Gleeson
March 16, 2006

AFL players would withdraw from voluntary out-of-competition drugs testing in disgust at the clumsy handling of the testing system, players' union president Peter Bell foreshadowed yesterday.

The Fremantle captain said that scrapping out-of-competition testing was a "very real threat" and that the present system would be likely to survive only as long as it took to convene a meeting of the AFL Players Association executive.

"Definitely (scrapping the testing immediately) is a very real and very live threat," Bell said. "We are very much dictated by what our members say, what our players say and I know there are a lot of players who are very disappointed and they will make their feelings known.

"We as an executive will have to sit down together and work out what is the best course of action and that is one of our options."

Asked if the policy would be likely to last only as long as the next executive meeting, Bell replied "Yes." That meeting will be convened as soon as possible.

Asked if the drug code was working, Bell bluntly replied "No. Confidentiality should be respected."

He said players felt betrayed and disappointed that the anonymity of players until they recorded a third positive test had not been preserved and that the identity of three players who had recorded two positive results to drugs was known in the media.

"It is very disappointing and it has brought into question the integrity of the system," Bell said.

All captains at an AFL season launch yesterday said they were disappointed at the breach of confidentiality and many had lost confidence in the drug-testing system.

Some felt duped for volunteering for a testing regime supplementary to the WADA match-day testing on certain conditions that were then not met.

"We haven't made a decision to scrap the drug code, but it is fair to say that … if confidentiality can't be guaranteed, then the integrity of the system is at question and it is clearly flawed," Bell said.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou met the head of the Australian Anti-Doping Agency yesterday and told the AFL captains he was confident of rooting out the source of the leak.

Bell said that supplementary testing to the WADA match-day testing was not necessary but players felt it was a better system as its primary aim was to rehabilitate before punishing, but now they felt betrayed.

Essendon captain Matthew Lloyd said that while he was troubled by the breach of confidentiality, he also struggled to have sympathy for those players who repeatedly tested positive to drugs. "I don't feel too sorry for guys because they see the risks and they are illegal drugs," Lloyd said.

Kangaroos captain Adam Simpson said drugs were a bigger issue out of competition than in competition.

"If it collapses, it's just going to be open slather, I suppose," Simpson lamented.

Hawthorn captain Richie Vandenberg was uncertain whether scrapping the testing was the answer, saying that while the AFL had much work to do to repair players' lost trust, the drugs issue, like racial vilification, was an opportunity to lead the community and not be shamed.

"The whole issue of the code was that we wanted to help people — we didn't want to hang and quarter people," he said.

Adelaide coach Neil Craig last night said it was of serious concern that people were making allegations of leaking information on AFL players taking drugs.

"I am not sure whether that is factual information," he said. "Now that drug testing is a part of our sport we are going to have to get used to the innuendo.

"Until someone can actually say these are the facts, from my point of view it's wise not to comment on it."

Craig said, in general, Adelaide would say yes to clubs being told which players were taking illicit drugs because it was a matter of duty of care.

"The whole area of drug testing requires co-operation from all parties," he said. "There is a huge responsibility in terms of confidentiality."

With ASHLEY PORTER
From The Age
 
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