AFL makes no apology for encouraging club doctors to stop players playing with drugs in their system

Jake Santa Maria and Jackson Barrett
The West Australian
3 Min Read
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The AFL has confirmed it does allow club doctors to “take steps to prevent a player from taking part” in training and games if they have been found to have an illicit substance in their system.

The league has responded to bombshell claims aired in federal parliament by MP Andrew Wilkie on Tuesday that allege they authorised former Melbourne doctor Zeeshan Arain to carry out pre-match tests on players that had confessed to having taken drugs.

Mr Wilkie’s address also claimed doctors would have players “fake injuries” to avoid testing positive on competition days under the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

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An AFL statement, released on Wednesday, did not go as far as to say doctors had made up injuries, but confirmed it was “absolutely imperative” players were not sent onto the ground if they were at risk of a breach.

“It is absolutely imperative that no doctor or club official should ever allow or encourage a player to take the field knowing they have recently taken an illicit substance that may be harmful to their health and/or may be deemed performance-enhancing,” they said.

“The AFL observes that AFL players are not immune to the societal issues faced by young people with respect to illicit substances and also acknowledges that illicit drug use problems commonly co-occur with other mental health conditions.

“We support the WADA code and support the fundamental premise on which it is founded that any player who takes the field with a performance-enhancing prohibited substance in their system should be treated in accordance with the Anti-Doping Code and face heavy sanctions.”

The AFL said it will continue to look at ways to improve its system but would make no apologies for keeping illicit substance abuse confidential from the public.

“The monitoring of players is highly confidential. A doctor or healthcare professional generally cannot disclose the nature of the clinical intervention or condition to others unless the player willingly consents,” they said.

“We understand that the Illicit Drugs Policy can be improved and we are working with the AFLPA and players to improve the policy and the system to ensure we are better able to change the behaviours of players.

“But we are unapologetic about club and AFL doctors taking the correct steps to ensure that any player who they believe has an illicit substance in their system does not take part in any AFL match and that doctor patient confidentially is upheld and respected.”

It comes just after Simon Goodwin — the coach of Melbourne, who are at the centre of the claims — denied any knowledge of the tests.

Simon Goodwin earlier denied knowledge of off-site drug testing.
Simon Goodwin earlier denied knowledge of off-site drug testing. Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

“It’s news to me and I think it’s a surprise to everyone in the industry,” Goodwin said.

“I haven’t got a line of sight on what that policy looks like. I understand the policy, but I don’t get the information that people would expect to get.”

Liberal frontbencher Jane Hume has joined Mr Wilkie’s call for a parliamentary enquiry.

“Look, these were allegations made under parliamentary privilege and they probably do need to be further investigated,” she said.

“Certainly, AFL players are not above the law but also the officials in the AFL have a duty of care to the welfare of players and I think that it is worth further investigation.”

Sports Minister Anika Wells has been contacted for comment.

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