The hypocrisy of drug policy in a game sponsored by vice

Matt Cleary Columnist

By , Matt Cleary is a Roar Expert

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    So – we still talking about cocaine? We are? Okay then! Like everyone, I’ve got a few extra shillings left over from my two bobs.

    And thus, in no particular order, I say these things.

    Testing for a drug that isn’t performance-enhancing is a waste of time. What’s the point? They don’t test for cigarettes; they’ve killed more people than all the wars.

    They don’t test for booze; alcohol’s responsible for all other NRL ‘scandals’ (and, yes, old mate Fitzsimons has been banging on about it this week, doesn’t mean he owns the idea).

    If a player’s taking a recreational drug, it should be none of the NRL’s business. The players shouldn’t cop the testing. Who else would? What other workplace or industry? (Yes, apart from pilots and cops and FIFO workers, all that.)

    Would you? The players should tell their union to tell the NRL to bugger off. And then as one, boycott their bloody tests. Tell ‘em flat out – nup. Not doing it. You piss in the bloody thing.

    Do it en masse. What are they going to do?

    Or if they must undergo these blinking tests they should demand the same standards of behaviour from everyone in the NRL.

    From Todd Greenberg down, all the suits, the receptionist, the mailroom guy, the referees, the referees’ masseuse, all of them – should have to walk in every morning and undergo a drug test.

    Mr Archer? Wee in this, please. Thanks.

    Todd Greenberg

    (Image: NRL Photos)

    And not just NRL employees, all ‘stakeholders’ in the game. Club executives, pundits at Channel Nine and Fox, everyone who makes a quid from rugby league – yes, you, Jaimee Rogers, and you fat bloke with the phone from Sportsbet – all should face the same random drug testing, the same public shaming, the same effect on their livelihood should their urine contain cocaine.

    And so should you, dear reader, especially if you’re sitting there now pontificating how they’re massively well paid and role models for the children, and drugs are illegal, mmmkay, and people shouldn’t take them and if they do they should be put in jail forever.

    No – if it’s good for the players, it’s good for everyone. And everyone should cop the same penalty: Counselling on first offence. Public shaming second offence. Two-year ban from work, probable dismissal, community service, public shaming – the full freakin’ gamut.

    And then: jail.

    Not jail.

    But y’know … how can you get brushed from footy because you sniffed some dodgy icing sugar on a Friday night? As literally one million people do every single weekend? Please. You wouldn’t cop it.

    Yes, it’s a bad ‘look’ for the NRL. It’s negative publicity. Sponsors have fled the Sharks and Roosters.

    Okay – if the NRL doesn’t want the bad publicity of positive tests, don’t publicise positive tests.

    And if a player – or the chairman of a board – gets done by the coppers, take it case by case, as they do every other illegal bit of kit – usually under the effect of alcohol – perpetrated by footy players.

    All the domestic violence, all the anti-social stupidity – all are dealt with case by case.

    So just do that. Treat drugs on a scale the courts do. Like it does drink-driving and speeding, all that.

    Jesse Bromwich New Zealand

    (Image: NRL Photos)

    Why’s the NRL testing anyway? ASADA and WADA test for cocaine and such ‘in competition’ when it would apparently (dunno how, but I’ll cop it from the boffins) assist performance.

    And there’s a case that a club should be able to test their players – their employees – to see if they’re taking something deleterious to their performance, as our Timmy Gore opined yesterday.

    (Which would be ironic, right? One mob’s testing for enhancement of performance, the other for detraction.)

    The NRL appears to have taken its cues from the police on how to deal with those who test positive for or are charged with possession of illicit drugs.

    “If drugs are detected in the system following a random test there’s an opportunity to take a rehab path without being sacked, followed by targeted testing,” says one senior NSW policeman of in-house copper drug policy.

    “But get pinged for possession and it’s an 181D – essentially ‘show cause’ and tell us why you should still be a cop.

    “And if criminal charges are laid for possession, you can face dismissal. If any of those footy players were cops and found guilty, they’d likely be gone.”

    Our man says most cops who get caught resign. He says that apart from the health and societal issues, there’s the criminality associated with supply and use.

    “It’s very hard to recover with regards to your reputation in the cops,” says our man.

    In rugby league? Same. But why?

    Rugby league will forgive men who bash their wives and spend time in jail for dealing drugs. But test positive for something that affects only you, and you can be rissoled out of the game.


    The NRL tests their players because they don’t like the shame and the stigma of illegal drugs attached to their ‘brand’. Yet for years they took the money from cigarettes, a legal product which has killed more people than all the wars.

    Alcohol sponsors the game. Gambling sponsors the game. And if cocaine was sold in shops it would sponsor the bloody game, I bloody bet it.

    Look at poker machines. Pokies screw more people than leprosy. They essentially sponsor rugby league.

    Rugby league doesn’t care – or can look the other way, or mute the idea of it – that pokie money comes from a source that so shatters families and the very communities rugby league purports to represent.

    I could go on.

    No – recreational drugs are on the nose because they would cause poor, fractious sponsors to disassociate their brand from NRL’s brand. As they’ve done at Roosters and Sharks.

    Know what? People need to chill. Each weekend, suspect white powders from suspect origins are hoovered up hooters. It’s grubby and bad for one’s health. But the light is on and burning bright. And it’s really not anyone’s business, except yours.

    Oh yeah, and the cops’. And the judicial system’s.

    And the NRL’s.

    And here we are.

    Matt Cleary
    Matt Cleary

    Matt Cleary is a sports writer from Sydney. He enjoys golf, footy and Four Pines Pale Ale, and spends as much time as conscience allows at Long Reef GC. Tweet him @journomatcleary, or read him at his website.