The AFL and its bulked up integrity unit is in danger of morphing into the Stasi.
In the avid pursuit of noble ideals like integrity you can justify to yourself listening in to people’s private conversations but then suddenly you’re extracting their fingernails and attaching their nether regions to an electricity supply.
An idea was floated at the recent AFL Commission meeting that crosses an important line in regards to the right of players to privacy.
As one of a number of methods to combat drug use and criminal influence it was suggested that players be impelled to submit a list of all of their friends and associates to the integrity unit.
Now while the suggestion was not acted upon, the angst stirred up by the ACC report makes its future implementation a distinct possibility according to Gillon McLachlan.
The proposal is based on the register kept by the Victoria Police to fight corruption within its ranks. It’s a procedure that is necessary in the struggle to ensure the integrity of those people involved in the vital tasks of law enforcement, maintaining public order and protecting law-abiding citizens.
But is it really justified in the case of footballers? I know I wouldn’t want to give out details about my friends and have the relationships examined and “monitored” by the AFL, even if I had nothing to hide. I’m sure most of the friends wouldn’t want to be on such a list either.
And if there are players who have criminal associates providing them with banned and illicit substances and involving them in match fixing, they wouldn’t be stupid enough to put those associates on the list, surely.
The slightly manic response by the AFL to the Australian Crime Commission’s findings is understandable. It was shocked and embarrassed to find out that performance enhancing drugs are being used and yet only one player has ever been sanctioned – Richmond’s Justin Charles in 1997.
The AFL should not be tempted to use the methods of an enforcement agency like ASADA which necessarily treats everyone with suspicion and doesn’t accept genuine ignorance as an excuse.
The large majority of players do not use banned substances or associate with criminal types and the correct approach to ensuring they never do and catching the guilty ones, is through education.
The players were recently advised by police experts about the insidious methods used by criminals to establish subversive relationships with impressionable young players.
However, the greatest enemy to drug cheats and those involved in match or spot fixing (if they exist in AFL) are the players prepared to dob them in.
The ASADA requirement that players provide constant information about their whereabouts so they can be drug tested at any time has produced nothing.
It’s doubtful that the ‘friends register’ would be bear any fruit either. But it would ruin the players’ relationships with their friends and the AFL.