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Illicit Drugs Policy Changes Unveiled

The AFL and AFLPA have today announced an updated Illicit Drugs Policy, which has been revised after wide-ranging discussions through the 2015 season between the two groups, medical officers and AFL Clubs.

The major components of the evolved Illicit Drugs Policy are as follows:

  • Enhanced player education and counselling programs – to help players with meaningful and lasting behavioural changes
  • Appropriate system of medical interventions as required – delivered by the AFL Medical Officer, AFL Doctors and medical experts
  • Opportunity for players to modify behaviour at first detection – interventions at this stage do not involve a playing or financial sanction but will trigger education and counselling programs, along with target testing.
  • Stricter set of consequences for players who fail to modify their behaviour – public suspension and fine after second detection
  • Increased Club involvement – Clubs informed earlier and greater involvement in education and counselling programs
  • Urine testing and year-round hair testing – urine testing to determine consequences, hair testing to monitor behaviour and direct target testing and education programs
  • No public release of results – the AFL will no longer release the results of illicit drug testing
  • Self-notification – Players will be permitted one self-notification, allowed only if they have not previously been identified under the Illicit Drugs Policy.
  • Players in the AFL’s Talent Pathway programs will also undergo testing with detections of an illicit substance to be communicated to the respective club doctor once drafted.

Interventions and consequences are as follows:

1st Detection: $5,000 financial sanction (suspended) and compulsory counselling and education programs.

2nd Detection: Four match suspension and $5,000 sanction imposed. Club notified and the suspension confirmed publically.

3rd Detection: 12 match suspension and $10,000 sanction.

Where a player is deemed as acting outside the spirit of the policy by failing to comply with the prescribed program or demonstrating risky behaviour, clubs may also be notified.

These changes reflect the continued evolution of the IDP. The AFL and AFLPA have worked collaboratively throughout the extensive review to deliver these outcomes following consultation with industry stakeholders and medical experts.

“We have committed to the evolution of the Illicit Drugs Policy to ensure it finds the right balance between dealing with the medical and health concerns of players, protecting their rights and influencing behavioural change.” – AFL Players’ CEO Paul Marsh

The updated policy acknowledges the complex nature of illicit drug use while striking a balance between protecting the health and wellbeing of players and providing appropriate deterrents and controls to shift player behaviour.

AFL General Manager of Football Operations Mark Evans thanked the AFLPA and the players for their ongoing commitment to a testing and sanctions regime for the management of illicit drugs.

“I want to remind the community that our players agree to a regime of testing and sanctions for illicit drug taking above and beyond the testing for performance-enhancing drugs, as is their responsibility as an athlete,” Mr. Evans said.

“We do this as an industry because we understand the threat of illicit drugs to players’ health and wellbeing, and the increasing and complex nature of drug taking in the broader community,” Mr. Evans said.

“We know illicit drug use in the playing group are below levels that exist in the broader community, but we also believe that the privilege of playing AFL comes with a responsibility to the club and to the game.”

Players who fall in to the AFL’s Talent Pathway category will also undergo education and counselling programs and be target tested once drafted, Mr Evans said.

“This policy seeks to provide an appropriate way of dealing with different circumstances leading to drug use in our playing group.”

“It is robust enough to deal with individuals with underlying medical issues, those who need to alter their behaviour and learn of the consequences of continued drug use, and it also provides stricter consequences when behaviour does not change.

“The AFL will continue to work with the AFLPA and clubs on the future role of hair testing and will remain open to further evolution of the policy.”

AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh said, “The revised policy takes a sophisticated approach to what is a complex issue.”

“We have worked with industry to deliver these changes as a response to the changing landscape of illicit drugs within society.

“We believe the philosophy and fundamentals of the policy are right and we commend players for their ongoing commitment to leadership and cultural change within our game and our society more broadly.

“We have committed to the evolution of the IDP to ensure it finds the right balance between dealing with the medical and health concerns of players, protecting their rights and influencing behavioural change.”

In recognition that the new policy will impact immediately on players, the AFL has agreed to transition arrangements for players with existing detections.

Transition to new system

  • Players with 1 detection more than 2 years old (with no further positive tests) will enter the new system with no detections
  • If a player is presently on 2 detections, their next detection will result in 4 week suspension and the $5k fine
  • If a player is on 1 detection, the next detection will be a $5k fine, plus the club informed but no suspension