AFL Denies Cocaine Issue Amid Claims of Secret Drug Tests

The Australian Football League (AFL) refutes allegations of a cocaine problem following revelations by whistleblowers suggesting widespread drug abuse within the sport. In a parliamentary address, MP Andrew Wilkie accused the Melbourne Demons club and the AFL of concealing breaches of the league’s drug policy. Wilkie claimed players were coerced into feigning injuries to evade match-day drug tests, citing information from former Demons president Glen Bartlett, ex-club doctor Zeeshan Arain, and former player Shaun Smith, father of current player Joel Smith.

Wilkie alleged that covert drug tests were conducted at a Melbourne pathology clinic, facilitated by a former AFL chief medical officer. Positive results were allegedly concealed from authorities like Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) and coaches, and players were advised to falsify their condition. Violations of the anti-doping code, including bans, are imposed on players testing positive for illicit drugs during matches, affecting the integrity of the game.

The Demons’ coach expressed surprise at the claims, denying knowledge of such practices, while the team captain denied the existence of a drug culture within the club. AFL CEO Andrew Dillon acknowledged the AFL’s internal drug testing protocols but avoided addressing allegations of instructing players to fake injuries. He emphasised the importance of players’ health and welfare and mentioned ongoing reviews of the league’s illicit drug policy, asserting that the AFL does not have a widespread drug issue.

Dillon downplayed the allegations, stating that only a small number of players were involved over the course of a year. Recent incidents involving two AFL women’s players from the Sydney Swans club suspended for cocaine possession and Joel Smith facing allegations from the SIA for cocaine possession and trafficking highlight the ongoing concerns regarding drug-related issues within the league.

The AFL’s response underscores its commitment to addressing drug-related challenges while maintaining the integrity of the sport. Despite assertions from whistleblowers and the severity of the accusations, the league maintains that drug abuse among players is not widespread and is being actively addressed through internal policies and procedures. The situation highlights the complex dynamics surrounding drug use in professional sports and the ongoing efforts to balance player welfare with maintaining the integrity of the game.

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