AFL must crack down on Breaking Bad in fight against drugs

Andrew Sutherland Roar Guru

By Andrew Sutherland, Andrew Sutherland is a Roar Guru


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    When Collingwood CEO Gary Pert first floated the idea of a drug summit at the recent clubs’ executive conference you would have thought the entire AFL playing list was boarding in a drug soaked fraternity house with a crystal meth lab in the gazebo.

    And when Pert’s claim that there was an intrinsic drug problem was questioned by the AFLPA chief Matt Finnis, the Pies’ boss – red faced and with phosphine gas hissing from his ears – took a swipe at the players’ union as well.

    Add the AFL’s ardent desire to preserve its unique three strikes policy to the powder keg and this summit had the makings of a spectacular explosion. Not to mention the stories about the “dark underbelly” and “shadowy alliances” of AFL drug culture.

    But no, Wednesday’s gathering was a bit of a storm in a teacup, I’m afraid. A little pile of baking soda on a snorting dish.

    Ok, apparently there was plenty of information on drugs, and a working party was agreed upon, but the delegates emerged from the proceedings having altered nothing of the drugs policy, or each other’s faces.

    In fact, the extreme goodwill exhibited by all participants led some outsiders to suspect they may have been sampling items – brought along by the Australian Drug Foundation for educational purposes only – that require for their manufacture a round-bottom boiling flask and some pseudoephedrine.

    One interesting point to emerge though was the “network” of information sources, including supporters, used by some clubs to gauge general drug use or to target suspected individuals. This will ensure some players keep clear of their fan base.

    It was also claimed that some clubs have resorted to employing private detectives. Unfortunately it’s not as exciting as it sounds. If a player, while illicitly imbibing, happens to hang his head out the window it won’t be Humphrey Bogart in a Buick staring back at him but a uni student in skinny jeans pretending he’s playing Angry Birds on his iPad.

    As we discovered with Ben Cousins, it can be difficult to identify a player’s drug problem, with many dismissing his regular bouts of mid-game projectile vomiting as a case of a strong work ethic. And Collingwood’s supposed alcohol imbibing “bad boy” Dane Swan won a Brownlow and averages 35 disposals a game.

    But if there is an illicit drug problem among AFL players I blame an over qualified underpaid chemistry teacher with inoperable lung cancer from Albuquerque, New Mexico: Walter Hartwell White, also known as Heisenberg.

    Yes, the TV series Breaking Bad is the problem everyone. When Walt White decides he’s not going to leave his family impoverished, he does what any rational, family loving, chemistry genius with a terminal prognosis does: he begins making and distributing the purest grade of methamphetamine.

    Suddenly crystal meth addiction and dissolving your competition in hydrofluoric acid don’t seem so bad if the proceeds are going to poor Walt and his (albeit slightly annoying) family.

    We and AFL footballers find ourselves rooting for a serious drug producer and trafficker. Heck, I even found myself getting nervous for Walt’s cold-blooded drug boss (a man who slit his own employee’s throat with a Stanley knife for no good reason) when Walt’s Drug Enforcement Agency brother-in-law started closing in on him.

    No, it’s not ideal for our young players to be watching this stuff. It will only densenstise them to drug culture. I suggest all clubs prohibit the watching of this programme.

    Let’s look for a positive TV role model for our boys. Here, what’s this?

    “He’s smart, good looking, and he’s got a great sense of humor. Michael C. Hall stars as Dexter. Everyone’s favorite serial killer. Miami forensics expert by day and murderer by night, this serial-killer killer is making the world a better place – one homicide at a time…”

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • February 3rd 2013 @ 12:17pm
      FastEddy said | February 3rd 2013 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      I always felt the AFL’s 3 strikes rule was designed purely to allow everyone to take
      almost, but not quite, all the drugs they wanted to … recreational and/or otherwise ….
      without having to face any organisational, disciplinary or employment consequences.

      Little wonder then ….

      • February 3rd 2013 @ 2:11pm
        polly said | February 3rd 2013 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

        Ditto & add in the public relations angle that not exposing the offenders keeps the AFL media wagon rolling along smoothly. I don’t think AFL HQ has the players welfare in mind at all.

    • Roar Guru

      February 3rd 2013 @ 12:38pm
      Adam Scroggy said | February 3rd 2013 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

      Not to move this away from a sport discussion, but the whole point of Breaking Bad is that, eventually, you STOP rooting for Walt. Not sure how many seasons you’ve watched but the show’s creators’ aim is to take season 1’s likeable protagonist and, by the end of the series, turn him into a detestable antagonist. I don’t think anyone is rooting for Walt any more.

      TV show critiques aside, I certainly don’t buy into the “these guys need better role models on TV” argument. Recreational drug culture among young people was around long before HBO and AMC started making shows about it. If footy players are trying drugs it’s because their mates are too, not because they just watched Walter White cook up a batch of meth.

    • February 3rd 2013 @ 12:49pm
      Anon said | February 3rd 2013 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

      What changes did you expect on the day Andrew? The AFL Commission was not present to ratify any changes!!! That day never was about immediate changes.

      The AFL policy is not a unique 3 strike policy – the Australian Sports Commission has in the last 2 years adopted a 3 strikes policy very similar to the AFL one and that covers the AIS. The alternative models of 2 strikes were adopted by the NRL and CA back around the 2007 election campaign – and if you can seriously suggest that was a time of ‘informed debate’ then I’d have to choose to disagree – given the PM of the country was exposed as not comprehending that the AFL 3 strike policy was additional to and not instead of the WADA testing.

      Ben Cousins – well, the AFL began testing in 2005 – and we know the number of tests and targetting etc was all very much in its infancy. However, by 2007 Cousins’ position was untenable. He hadn’t tested positive but he had been flushed out. We can only assume that were the testing program of 2012 dropped into 2006 that Cousins would have tested positive and would iniitially have been processed discretely through the policy. Personally – I was sure that with the hounding from the media that the story would only naturally conclude with his death – I am amazed that he is still around.

      It also needs to be acknowledged that had the AFL at the time done nothing – as, in the main was being done – then they could’ve happily stuck up their hand saying “We are WADA complient, like all the Olympic sports and everyone else.” And we know that WADA testing alone didn’t detect either of Ben Cousins in AFL or Andrew Johns in NRL.

      And looking in Australia at other codes – the NRL in particular. They claim to run about 1100 tests a year. 70 per club. It’s run in house. Not reported on. We just don’ t know. The AFL at least have Dorevich Pathology run it across the board and DO report the results. I can google and find the AFL policy on line – I can’t find the NRL policy.

      And – the Australian Drug Foundation – heavily involved with both NRL and AFL. Let’s for a minute assume they know what they are on about, and they continue to defend the AFL’s 3 strike policy and the avoidance of ‘naming and shaming’. Given that the Vic Police and Federal Police are also supportive – – well, I’m fine with that. Let them continue to evolve the program and make it function better – but – sure as heck, had they never started on this journey then imagine the mess.

      And I do note, an example of the RFU from England, in 2008/99 they initiated their policy and ONLY cited the AFL and NRL as among the few examples around the world. They didn’t pass judgement or get into juvenile numbers games (2 strikes are better or worse than 3 etc). Interestingly – by 2010 they’d already adopted hair tests and made them count. I have no idea what the NRL are doing but in the AFL policy hair tests have been run now for 2 years at least for information purposes but don’t incur a strike. The clear point here is that like the old ‘oils ain’t oils’, well – a test ain’t a test. Whether it’s 11000 (NRL) or 1600 (AFL) – it’s got to be worth the effort otherwise it’s just PR.

      btw – yes – drug culture unfortunately is societal. The drug culture does not begin at sports clubs – it is migrated in from the drugs sub cultures of night clubs etc. And when TV somehow glorifies it – alas, no surprise that it’s demented US shows – there should be no surprise that suddenly the AFL are trying to clean up a mess. That’s where a session like the drugs summit was critical to ensure all CEO’s had at least a common base of information.

    • February 3rd 2013 @ 1:22pm
      FastEddy said | February 3rd 2013 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

      @Anon – some good points –

      In Rugby Union, (at least in UK and Aus, if not elsewhere), examples abound of the following:
      if you fail a drug test, both samples, unambiguously, then your contract is torn up.
      Cocaine, EPO whatever.

      Pretty simple. And cost effective –
      No Ben Cousins sagas there, as he’d be out on his ear after his first bust.

      You just need administrators with the cojones to do it.

      And you need to start with a base group of non-drug taking people …
      which is where NRL and AFL might encounter some problems …
      (The Public, whilst being generally understanding of drug issues, still want zero tolerance for
      sports people I would suggest – as hypocritical as that may be !!)

      • February 3rd 2013 @ 1:44pm
        Brewski said | February 3rd 2013 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

        If you need to start with a base group of non drug taking people, then you would not have a AFL, NRL or super rugby comp, perhaps you don’t pay attention, but drugs are rife from the effluent to the affluent, from Toorak to Meekathara, they miss no race, creed or colour.

        • February 3rd 2013 @ 5:05pm
          fred gallop said | February 3rd 2013 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

          reni Matua (NRL) and Wendell Sailor (RU) got 2 years. Jutin harrison got his contract torn up but got another one soon after. Illicit drugs are not performance enhancing just like alcohol so why should sportsmen in their prime earning years be deprived of income when they dont harm anyone un like train drivers, doctors etc under drugs or alcohol.

          • February 3rd 2013 @ 7:35pm
            Floreat Pica said | February 3rd 2013 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

            Hear-hear, Fred. Australia’s mainstream culture if not openly liberal on recreational drugs is at least wilfully ignorant. I would completely disagree that society in the main would be in favour of zero tolerance for recreational drugs such as ecstasy or marijuana use in sport- performance enhancing drugs though would be a different story.

            • February 3rd 2013 @ 11:53pm
              Brewski said | February 3rd 2013 @ 11:53pm | ! Report

              i would be interested to know how many drug tests the boards of BHP, news limited etc etc etc have, even the local doctor or chemist have.

              Yet young guys are drawn and quartered for doing things that young guys have been doing as a right of passage for time immemorial,( doing stupid things and pushing boundaries) and i am not talking just AF here.

              Performance enhancing drugs are different IMO though.

    • February 3rd 2013 @ 2:57pm
      Swampy said | February 3rd 2013 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

      Let’s just hope that no one’s heart ever explodes on the field during an actual televised match. That potential has got to be there right now.

      If something of that nature, or worse, ever occurs than everything the policies have attempted to avoid/cover up will have been worthless.

      Search ‘dead pro-wrestlers’ or ‘dead NFL players’ to see the effects of drug culture that was swept under the carpet.

      If you think ‘yeah but that’s just America’ then remind yourself of the sad demise of Chris Mainwaring.

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    • February 3rd 2013 @ 4:04pm
      clipper said | February 3rd 2013 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

      I don’t know how many AFL and NRL players would be watching Breaking Bad – it’s on ABC2 and a cult show, like Dexter. Brilliant as these shows are, they’re hardly mainstream.

      • February 3rd 2013 @ 7:40pm
        Floreat Pica said | February 3rd 2013 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

        Wouldn’t be watching as its on ABC2?? Wow.

        • February 3rd 2013 @ 8:51pm
          clipper said | February 3rd 2013 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

          More the case that it’s not on one of the main channels and therefore has never rated well.

          • February 3rd 2013 @ 11:27pm
            Floreat Pica said | February 3rd 2013 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

            A quick google claims it was the fifth most downloaded series of last year- I’m sure that’s more indicative of the demographic’s awareness of the show than being on a sub-channel.

            • February 5th 2013 @ 3:13pm
              clipper said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

              That then proves my point that it’s a cult show (I’m sure Dexter would be near the top too) – typically on at odd hours or obscure channels, but downloaded by the fans because they are very good – but outside of the cult status, how mainstream are they and what percentage of the general population, let alone footy players, would have watched it?

              • February 5th 2013 @ 8:42pm
                Floreat Pica said | February 5th 2013 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

                The demographic of footy players is that most likely to find these shows; 17-30 year old males with reasonable down-time living in shared accommodation (particularly the junior players). They would be all over anything online.