Home Australia ‘You should be named’: McGuire wants AFL to toughen code’s illicit drug policy

‘You should be named’: McGuire wants AFL to toughen code’s illicit drug policy

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A prominent AFL club manager speaks at an outdoor event.

It’s time for the AFL to get tough and transparent on illicit drug use.

That’s not just the view of independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who used parliamentary privilege to raise allegations about the AFL’s drug policy last month, but also that of former Collingwood boss and veteran sports journalist Eddie McGuire.

Mr. Wilkie’s criticism shook the league, but McGuire was glad to hear it.

“I was actually quite open to Andrew Wilkie coming out and saying these things because it shed light on it,” the former Collingwood president said.

Eddie McGuire says it’s time to “take an adult approach” to illicit drug use in the AFL.(AAP: Stefan Postles)

Wilkie alleged in parliament that numerous players were gaming the AFL’s illicit drug policy, which provides for three strikes for players who test positive for drugs such as cocaine on non-playing days.

On the first strike, the players are not named.

Wilkie told parliament that many players who tested positive then feigned injuries to avoid being tested on game days, when they would be subject to much harsher sanctions under the AFL’s World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code.

It’s a league with two different drug testing regimes, and McGuire believes the inconsistencies need to be looked at.

“Right now, we have a situation where [under the illicit drug policy] If you go and report it, they don’t give you weeks and they take care of you,” McGuire said at 7:30.

A middle-aged man wearing glasses, a suit and tie, is sitting in his office looking at the camera. Behind him is an Australian flag.

Andrew Wilkie alleged numerous players were gaming the AFL’s illicit drug policy.(Four Corners: Craig Hansen)

“They catch you on game day and you get four years, so it’s all over the place and we just have to adjust these things.”

According to McGuire, the risk to the game’s credibility is now too great for the policy to continue as is.

Gamers live in a world where social use of illicit substances is common and that can leave them vulnerable to extortion by anyone who manages to record them using and post the images on social media or sell them to the media.

It is a process that has been repeated frequently in recent years.

“Get out of the arena, let’s be adults about this and take an adult approach,” McGuire said before calling for the offending players to be named.

The AFL logo on the side of a building, partially obscured by a tree branch.

The current policy provides for three strikes for players who test positive for drugs.(AAP Image: Mal Fairclough)

“I think there should be punitive action and you should be named. And I think that will act as a deterrent.

“But it also means that those particular players will be able to receive the right guidance and the right rehabilitation.”

McGuire’s views represent the “hardline” element in AFL circles who want drug policy to be toughened.

AFL doctor says Wilkie is out of place

A man with glasses and a checkered shirt.

Barry Rigby says “we’re not in the business of faking injuries.”(ABC News: Marton Dobras)

But there is another powerful school of thought from AFL club doctors. They believe the priority should be maintaining patient-doctor confidentiality for players who may have a drug problem, not naming and shaming.

“It’s all very well setting up rules and regulations. I think that’s important,” said Barry Rigby, president of the AFL Medical Association.

“But I think the public health medical literature would support the fact that that’s not going to change some of the complex behavioral issues that we face when we talk about illicit substances.”

Dr Rigby called Wilkie’s allegations “nonsense” even though AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon did not refute them at the time and spoke of a “clinical intervention model”.

Carlton and Sydney Swans players compete at the SCG

The AFL says it is reviewing its illicit drug policy in the wake of Andrew Wilkie’s allegations.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

“We are not in the business of faking injuries and we would never force a player to do so,” Dr. Rigby said at 7:30.

“I will again emphasize the fact that when a player transgresses that area, it is usually invariably a player who has many other medical, psychosocial, psychiatric or mental health problems.

“And it is the players, in our opinion, who need more help rather than punishment.”

Change is coming, says AFL chief executive

Andrew Dillon standing in front of microphones at a podium.

Andrew Dillon says it’s time for the AFL’s policy on illicit drugs to evolve.(AAP Image: Joel Carrett)

For Mr. Dillon, things have changed and there is now a debate underway.

He says the league’s approach to recreational drug testing will change.

“Our illicit drug policy has served the AFL and its players very well for 19 years, and continues to serve us well, but we also know it’s 2024,” he said.

“We are reviewing the policy and now we need to do what we want to do is evolve our policy… so that it is suitable for 2024 and beyond.”

It’s unclear what form the evolution will take, but there are indications that the new rules will be an adjustment, not a total overhaul.

“I think the important thing about any policy, no matter how you look at it, is that I don’t think that what you want is extremes at any level, at any of the extremes of extremes,” Dillon told 7:30.

“What we want is a balanced policy that looks after the health and interests of our players, but also ensures that we balance all the interests of the public.”

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