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Drugs policy needs AFL-wide attention

Roar Pro
29th November, 2012
9

Finally, there is a conversation that AFL clubs need to take on board and work on together. I have nothing but praise for Gary Pert for openly speaking to his fellow Chief Executives about his concern over illicit drug use within the AFL.

It seems as if clubs are individually taking action for illicit drug use. Don’t get me wrong, it is great that this is happening, however illicit drug use is a problem on a far wider scale, stretching further than the clubs and clubrooms of our 18 AFL clubs.

What I like about this proposed meeting on January 30 is clubs will be now working together to support its players against illicit drug use. Form a common approach. Create a successful and best chance approach to what is a serious social issue. After all it is the culture the AFL have built that are leaving our players vulnerable in the first place.

What I mean by this is we are recruiting 18-year-olds, many moving away from family and other important links in their life to play this great game.

We pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars and ask them to dedicate themselves for 10 months of the year to play AFL, to entertain us and to be perfect.

So the two months off is nothing but a release from their pain staking, gruelling regime from training, diet, social connections, curfews and an at times obsessive compulsive approach to playing.

Hearing stories of what players will do for that extra edge, be that little bit fitter, the routines they simply cannot break make you appreciate how hard they try.

I still can’t fathom Nick Dal Santo drinking that much Gatorade but anyway that is between him and his dentist!

So we get to October and November and we have young boys with money looking for some fun to get away from the routine they now call their job, their life. I can only imagine the temptation to party. And being exposed to illicit drugs is no doubt a problem.

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I am not saying there is anything wrong with the AFL system and the age players are recruited but the AFL and its clubs need to recognise the culture it develops makes our young men vulnerable.

A comment was made that AFL players are in fact more protected than your average person in society in terms of how structured their season is. The risk of them being exposed to drugs is far less than that of your average person living in Australian society.

I agree however that the two-month period needs serious addressing because this ‘volcanic’ behaviour, as described by Pert, is spot on the money.

Out of all of this and from my conversations with other AFL fans, is that our drug policy is not just a policy to stamp out performance enhancing drugs.

I believe AFL players are the fittest sportspeople in the world and work bloody hard for that honour. The AFL drugs policy is a welfare policy. It is there to support players who are using illicit drugs.

The support, counselling and collaboration with their team doctors is an important step in the drug policy code to support the player regardless if it is one offence and a bad decision or a more serious drug addiction as was the case with someone like Travis Tuck.

I hope the AFL continue their hard work supporting its players against the use of illicit drugs. Whether you agree with the three strike policy or the overall policy itself, you have to commend the AFL for taking action against a serious social issue and recognising the sport offers certain temptations to its participants.

The key word is education. I hope January 30 allows for all clubs to implement education to their players about the use of illicit drugs. A shared and common approach will no doubt be a great support.

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Let’s face it, I don’t think we will ever see multiple years of 0% drug use in our system but what I hope I see is the right education and support offered.