ANOTHER 15 AFL players failed illicit drug tests last year – and a new name is one strike from being banned.
There are now four current players who face a tribunal hearing and suspension if they fail an illicit drug test for the third time.
But no league club will be told who these players are, making Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas uncomfortable with the AFL’s three-strike illicit drug policy.
By contrast, the AFL has a one-strike policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Thomas is a long-standing advocate of the AFL club chief executives being told when a player fails an illicit drug test so that they can help – and not punish – the player.
“As a club chief executive, I would like to know the name of the player as soon as he tests positive,” Thomas said.
“As the most senior executive at the club, I believe there is not an issue with trust. As a chief executive, I feel a responsibility to know – and to assist the player in getting help.
“We, as chief executives, can play a meaningful role in assisting the player through the rehabilitation process. The sooner we know, the better.”
Thomas’ view led to Port stepping up its campaign against illict drugs in the off-season.
With AFL Players’ Association approval, there were hair tests of every Power player on return to training from the Christmas break.
“Those results are not included in the AFL figures,” Thomas said.
“But they increased the club’s knowledge on whether we have an issue at Port Adelaide – and we don’t. We wanted to be ahead of the curve if there was a problem.”
The AFL illict drug policy has the club doctor – but no other club official – alerted when a player fails two tests. On a third strike, the club administration gets its first insight on the issue as the player is called to a tribunal hearing.
Thomas does not personally support three-strikes policy “but I defer to the experts on that point”. He will get to reiterate the point to new AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan who has accepted the Power’s invitation to be at Adelaide Oval today for Port’s home clash with St Kilda.
Thomas’ strong stand last year did lead to the AFL releasing more information on the drug tests to the clubs.
Adelaide chief executive Steven Trigg on Friday agreed “it is unnerving” for a club not to know if a player has failed his second drug test.
“That makes you feel uncomfortable,” Trigg said.
“Overall, it is an encouraging report – and reflects the AFL has a policy that is as good as anything in the world.
“Not only is it encouraging that there were less failed tests, but it is reassuring to see after the first tests there are very few who fail for the second time.”
The AFL last year made a record number of tests (1998, up by 19 on 2012 figures). The results – 15 failed first tests compared to 26 in 2012; one failed second test compared to two in 2012 – are presented by the AFL as a success for its education policies.
All 15 failed tests last year involved stimulants. There was none for cannabis.
“Our advice is the rate of illicit drug use within the AFL playing group remains substantially lower compared with the same age group of young men in the wider community,” AFL football chief Mark Evans said.