AFL needs to be tougher on drug use

MEDIA reports surrounding this week’s AFL drug summit have made for fascinating reading.

The reports have delivered an insight into a problem far bigger than has been publicly acknowledged.

A father told the story of a son once so paranoid about drug testing that he refused to attend a party where marijuana could be present for fear he could inhale smoke and test positive the next day. That same son left the AFL last year a regular user of illicit drugs.

AFL chief Andrew Demetriou yesterday defended the “three strike” policy which sees players named and clubs informed only after a player returns three positive tests to illicit drugs.

Mr Demetriou said the AFL was about education not naming and shaming.

That’s a common sense approach for the players involved but does it create the right culture?

A player can try illicit drugs in the knowledge his name will be protected if caught.

He’s free to run the gauntlet again under the safety net of not being exposed for strike two. By the third time he’s caught and his name does become public, there’s a fair chance recreational use has long given way to habit.

A zero tolerance approach means players will know the ramifications if caught. A person controls, in the beginning at least, what goes into their body. If caught, they have no-one else to blame.

The AFL should accompany zero tolerance with an extensive education campaign. Players who give way to temptation should be punished but also given the correct medical support to deal with the problem.

A first strike policy leaves no one in any doubt about the consequences of taking illicit drugs. It seems a hard but ultimately fair way of changing this culture issue.

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