AFL boss Andrew Demetriou has officially confirmed the findings of an outrageous spike in the number of positive tests returned for illicit substances, by AFL players in 2012. This came after leaked reports told of the spike over the past 24 hours.

The AFL has invested in its illicit drug policy, of which any AFL player, at any time can be tested by AFL medical officers, for the use of illicit drugs, or more commonly known to fans as “recreational” or “party drugs”. The AFL employed some several more medical officers at the competition of 2011, which aids the amount of increased testing the AFL are able to carry out.

The increase in medical officers made available by the AFL caused an upsurge in testing. There were 1979 recorded testings in 2012 a increase from 1498 in 2011, and 1654 in 2010. Of the 1976 tests taken place during the 2012 season, the AFL conceeded that a whopping 26 tests returned positive. Put simply, in 2010 and 2011, both seasons recorded six positive tests respectively, however in 2012; this is a 333 per cent increase from 2011, and in total a 400 per cent increase since 2010.

However, 26 positive tests do not necessarily mean 26 different players tested positive. For example, a failed hair test isn’t necessarily a “strike” at this stage; however it still comes back as a positive test. A player may fail a urine test, and record one strike, and then may fail a hair test, yet at this stage – for whatever reason – it does not constitute a strike, given the variables.

One may argue that the new “target testing” procedures form part of the reason so many tests returned positive, however the 490 difference between tests in 2011 and 2012, would natural insinuate that a high magnitude of tests, would return positive. The report also stated that the drugs most commonly found were amphetamines (cocaine) and methamphetamines (speed and ecstasy), which are common drugs within the age group of 18 to 30-year-old males.

The AFL has also indicated that there were a total of two “second test fails”, that being – two unnamed individual players have tested positive in the past 12 months to an illicit substance. Under the illicit drug policy as agreed to by the AFL players association, the AFL are not at liberty to discuss nor “name and shame” players who test positive once or twice under this code. It is only after a player tests positive to a third strike, that the AFL are obliged to make the information public knowledge. The AFL then inform the players’ respective CEO and Football Operations Manager, of which the player will then be sent to the tribunal for bringing the game into disrepute, carrying with it a likely end to the players’ AFL career. This however, has only happened once in the AFL Illicit Drugs Policy and testing procedures since 2005, in 2010 Travis Tuck was suspended from the AFL, and axed subsequently from Hawthorn.

There are currently three players in the AFL system, who sit on two strikes. Fans should also keep in mind that testing does not have to be an illicit drug.  One player in the competition is on two strikes from the result of a substance inside a common cold and flu tablet, an innocent, yet naïve mistake.

Industry experts believe that with an increase in clubs “banning” alcohol, more particularly beer which carries with it an array of unhealthy and unnecessary carbohydrates, that players are finding other alternatives when “out on the town”, in order to “have a good night.”

It’s commonly known that party drugs in cocaine, ecstasy and speed are out of a person’s blood system within 48 hours. Although these drugs have been proven to cause neurotic damage if used for a sustained and prolonged period of time, they are also a highly addictive drug, which falls under a “Class A Substance” by Australian Federal Law.

Given players are treated like “rock stars”, and are always welcome into night clubs or other hotspots as VIP’s, where cocaine filled backrooms are the norm for celebrities and professional athletes, Andrew Bogut went on the record in August 2012 saying “‘The first thing the host asked me was ‘do you want some coke?’.”

In 2012, Collingwood CEO Gary Pert called a summit to be held on recreational drugs, of which he labelled “volcanic” behaviour amongst players. Months later, breaking news surfaced that Collingwood had four players self-admit to using illicit drugs. This loophole meant players did not record a strike against their name, if they knowingly admitted to using a banned drug ahead of testing.

Bound for Glory News broke just after, that although Collingwood recorded four self-admitted cases, there was another club that the AFL would not name – that recorded almost double that figure in the same period. With the 2012 reported now available, a rise in percentage tests failing increase 0.4 per cent in the last two years, to 1.31 per cent  in 2012, with the failed test percentage at its worst since the second year of testing in 2006.

Perhaps the more damning evidence is that upwards of 50 AFL listed players have dabbled, or have on-going issues with these party drugs with themselves personally, or in peer groups both in and outside their football clubs. In a day an age for AFL players where money is not a problem, and recreational drugs are presented freely, the AFL have a lot of work to do, if they are to stamp out this common practice amongst its players.