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Integrity body wants oversight of AFL illicit drug code

Roger Vaughan
AAP
The confidential nature of the AFL's illicit drugs policy has been questioned. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)
The confidential nature of the AFL's illicit drugs policy has been questioned. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Australia’s anti-doping body has cleared the AFL of bombshell allegations raised in federal parliament, while making a series of recommendations about the league’s controversial illicit drugs code.

The investigation into claims made by MP Andrew Wilkie has also prompted Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) chief executive David Sharpe to warn that “all Australian sport has reached a crossroad in dealing with illicit drug use, player mental health and wellbeing and criminal infiltration of sport.

“Significant intervention is required immediately to address the illicit drug culture in sport and the increasing and unacceptable risks posed to players, officials, clubs and sporting codes.”

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SIA said the confidential nature of the AFL’s illicit drugs policy’s medical model had created a “level of suspicion”.

AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon welcomed the SIA report that was released on Monday, saying the body found “zero evidence” that supported the claims.

But Wilkie said the AFL had dodged a WADA breach “on a technicality” and he doubled down on his claims, adding he also welcomed the SIA report.

“The fact remains that secret tests were conducted, which facilitated illegal drug use and helped ensure there were no positive match day tests,” Wilkie said.

“SIA is adamant any new AFL drugs policy must outlaw non-sanctioned drug tests. How on earth could the AFL have ever thought it was OK to run these tests which were kept secret from the media and fans?”

There are eight key recommendations in the SIA report, including independent oversight of the league’s illicit drugs policy.

In late March, Wilkie used parliamentary privilege to allege widespread drug use at AFL club Melbourne and a league-wide secret testing regime.

That sparked the SIA investigation, and its findings were made public on Monday morning.

“The assessment ... significantly identified there were no breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code through any anti-doping rule violation by AFL players or support personnel or that injuries were feigned to cover up for positive drug testing during the week by the AFL or club doctors,” SIA said in a statement.

“Through the assessment, SIA identified integrity threats posed by the purchase of illicit drugs by players and noted this is an issue relevant to all sport in Australia.

“SIA noted the long-established AFL integrity unit and the fact the AFL is one of the few sports to implement an illicit drug policy.

“SIA recommends the continued expansion of the AFL’s intelligence capability to manage emerging threats.”

The eight recommendations also include the need for greater education on the AFL’s illicit drugs code and the anti-doping policy.

The AFL said in a lengthy statement that it “welcomed” the SIA report.

“SIA concluded that there are no irreconcilable inconsistencies between the AFL’s illicit drugs policy and the national anti-doping scheme,” the league said.

“The AFL also welcomes SIA’s assessment that (it) ‘found no evidence to suggest testing by the AFL or club doctors was in breach of the WADA code, or that injuries were feigned to cover up for positive drug testing during the week by the AFL or club doctors’.

“SIA also found that ‘most players adhere to the AFL’s illicit drugs policy and intervention model in good faith, however some players will and do find ways to get around the system, and while this is not ideal, no policy or process is without weaknesses’.”

The AFL added the SIA recommendations would be considered as part of the league’s current review of its illicit drugs policy.

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