AFL coaching great Mick Malthouse has called for Melbourne swingman Joel Smith to have the book thrown at him by the league over his positive drugs test, in the hope that doing so will deter other players.
Smith was provisionally suspended by the league in early October after it was revealed he had tested positive for cocaine following the Demons’ Round 23 win over Hawthorn.
However, while the maximum suspension is a four-year ban, it is expected the 27-year old will receive a far lighter sentence, if he can persuade the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) that his illicit drug wasn’t taken with performance-enhancing intent.
If Smith does that as well as complete a drug treatment program, his ban could be reduced to as little as a month and be served over summer.
However, speaking on Nine’s Today, Malthouse, who coached for a VFL/AFL record 718 games spanning four decades at the Western Bulldogs, West Coast, Collingwood and Carlton, wants Smith to be made an example of.
“If you have a soft penalty, you get a soft result. It’s got to be very, very harsh first up,” Malthouse said.
“It’s [Smith’s suspension] got to be at least half a year to a year. You’ve got to set the tone. If someone pays a high price, it is a deterrent for the next person who thinks about it.
“It’s all nonsense. You know the consequences, you’ve got to suffer the penalty and the penalty has got to be really harsh.
“In the public eye, you love playing the game, you love getting good pay, but there’s a price to pay and the price is that drugs are out.
“You are told that from the word go… I don’t think they should be nailed in the head first up, there has got to be a second chance – but the provision for penalties has got to be that harsh that it’s going to make a lot of people think where this ends up, instead of just a slap on the wrist and we go back and then we wait for the next one to appear.
“I don’t have any sympathy for the person because you’ve known from the word go, but then what you have to do is you have to look after that person.
“The price you pay for being a league footballer has got to be high because you’re in the public eye and you cannot avoid that.”
Malthouse also accused the AFL of deliberately attempting to ‘minimise the impact’ of Smith’s suspension, with the Demon having already served three weeks of any ban.
“They seem to reach in and find things that can minimise the impact of the penalty,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the AFL is always about image… sometimes a lot of these things get spread out, pushed underneath carpets and so forth.
“Keys stakeholders are rarely involved in this. As a coach point of view, you wouldn’t know whether a player tested positive or not because you’re not allowed to know, so therefore you have no input into how to help that player.”
Malthouse’s comments come in the wake of Demons coach Simon Goodwin admitting he is yet to speak with Smith since news of his positive drugs test broke.
“When I first heard, I was incredibly angry and frustrated to think that potentially we’ve got a player in Round 23, on the eve of a finals series, not doing everything possible to help the success of our footy team,” Goodwin told SEN.
“I can only imagine that same feeling would be permeating through our supporter base.
“I haven’t spoken to Joel, I’m going to let the process play out… because I’ve got a level of anger and frustration towards it.”