As the circus that is the current drug scandal continues to fill out newspaper space, it appears that the underlying issues that are much bigger than exactly which players have admitted to drug use are being swept under the rug.
Most prominently pursued by the media have been the four Collingwood footballers that have admitted to AFL medical officers that they have used recreational drugs, although a number of players from other clubs have been reported as doing the same. In doing so, the current AFL drug policy allows players these players chances to admit they have been using drugs without receiving a strike.
The first big issue is obviously this drug policy. You don’t need to be a genius to realise that an anti-drugs system that allows players to use drugs and get off without consequence is laughable. You can understand why players are obviously not taking this policy seriously. It’s like saying that every player has a free ticket to go out and speed or drink and drive, so long as they are honest about it.
If we have a system where a player is able to avoid a strike by admitting to AFL medicos that they have been using drugs, we have a serious problem.
With that said, you wonder how stupid these certain players have to be to still go out and use recreational drugs, despite knowing full well that they will eventually be slapped hard on the wrist for it. Whatever your personal opinion is on drugs, these players are role models. Whether or not people, especially young aspiring footballers and supporters, choose to view them as roles is obviously not the decision of the players, but it is how it is – it’s part and parcel of what is essentially the celebrity status that comes with playing AFL football.
Another issue is the AFL’s lack of accountability and responsibility in dealing with this situation. You’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t believe that the AFL knew about these players taking drugs, as well as what appears to be an unfortunate drug culture within groups.
Keep in mind the same organisation that so boldly declared that there is no such thing as tanking is the same organisation that likes to believe that drugs aren’t a big issue in the AFL. Clearly, both are serious issues.
The AFL had a chance to punish – not shame, punish – these players and deal with the issue when it was made aware of it when the players confessed late last season. Those within the AFL made a conscious decision to keep this information behind closed doors and if it hadn’t been for an information leak to the media – a completely separate but equally important issue – chances are we would have never known about this.
There’s a serious lack of accountability being displayed by the AFL and its duty to help these players, as well as make an example of them to prove that drug use as an AFL player is not acceptable. The AFL is not at fault for the actions of these players, but it is liable for turning a blind eye to what is a serious issue.
To add another level of farce to what is already a shambolic situation, how in the world this information could be leaked to the media is beyond reasonable thinking. However, the issue is now out and something needs to be done immediately to prevent this behaviour in the future.
The cover-ups must now come to an end; there is a chance for AFL drug users to be brought to light and punished for their indiscretions. The current drug policy also must be reviewed and altered to not allow players the obvious freedom that comes with recreational drug use.