Medico insiders say more than 100 AFL players receiving clandestine immunity from league’s three-strike policy

Aaron Kirby
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive Officer of the AFL.
Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive Officer of the AFL. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

There have been reports of more than 100 AFL players receiving clandestine immunity from the league’s three-strike drugs policy.

It comes after bombshell claims the AFL allowed clubs to secretly drug test players to help them avoid testing positive on match days.

Anonymous medical staff from within the league have reportedly revealed the AFL is “aiding and abetting” illicit drug use, with players effectively given free rein to use drugs without repercussions.

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A bombshell speech by Federal MP Andrew Wilkie in parliament on Tuesday revealed former Melbourne club doctor Zeeshan Arain, ex-Demons president Glen Bartlett and Shaun Smith — the father of accused drug trafficker Joel — had signed documents attesting to the practice at the Demons.

The trio also claimed the club had faked injuries to get players who had tested positive out of games.

The claims sent the AFL world into a tailspin, but the league say it is an established part of their drug policy and that they would not apologise for taking steps to ensure players with illicit substances in their system do not take part in matches.

However, according to the Herald Sun, medico insiders have come forward to reveal players who register a positive test in the lead-up to a game are advised by their doctor to fake a minor injury or claim to have an illness so they are removed from the starting 22 and cannot be caught by Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) tests on game day.

The insiders also said the league was actively identifying cocaine users and placing them in what is called “the medical model” where they don’t get strikes.

“Even the cleanest clubs would have about five players on this so-called rehabilitation program,” one insider told the Herald Sun.

“Some would have far more. Across 18 clubs, we are talking about maybe 100 players.”

Two other medicos reportedly confirmed the claims.

Under the three-strike rule, a second positive test outside match day results in the player being named and shamed, fined $5000 and suspended for four games, while a third strike triggers a 12-match suspension.

Sports Integrity Australia, which conducts match-day tests, can ban any player who tests positive after a match for four years.

In an official statement on Wednesday, AFL Doctors’ Association president Barry Rigby took the same stance, staunchly claiming the whole process was about protecting player welfare and not punishing them.

The head doctor then doubled down on his stance in comments to the Herald Sun, saying it was a community-wide problem that they would be “naive” to think wasn’t impacting AFL players.

“It’s a medical model of care,” Dr Rigby said.

“It’s not designed to find out these culprits and then afford them some sort of punishment. That’s not the goal of the program. The goal of the program is to manage illicit drug use. Recreational drug use is widespread in the community.

“We’d be rather naive to suggest that the AFL is somehow immune from that. If a player does test positive — and drug tests are part of the rehabilitation and remediation process — then I would suggest it would be remiss of us to allow that player to go out and play, knowing full well that it may well be detrimental to their own health.

“But it may also be detrimental to the fact that we’re breaching the WADA and SIA guidelines.

“So it makes no sense to me medically that we shouldn’t be there supporting the players as much as possible.

“The AFL has at least put into place a policy that supports the players. That, for one, should be commended as an initiative to look after the health and wellbeing of the playing group.”

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