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Drug Use in the Australian Football League:

a critical survey

Bob Stewart is an Associate Professor in Sport Studies in the School of

Human Movement, Recreation and Performance at Victoria University. He has a special interest in the political economy of football, and has written extensively on its post-modernisation and corporatisation.

Geoff Dickson is Research Director of Sports studies at the Auckland

University of Technology. His research interests include professional sports leagues, event tourism, corporate governance and knowledge management.

Aaron Smith is Professor and Director of Sport Management at La Trobe

University in Melbourne and has research interests in the management of psychological, organisational and policy change in sport.

The Australian Football League (AFL), which arose of an expanded Victorian Football League competition in 1991, has become the most commercialised sports league in the nation.1 By 2007 it was attracting an annual attendance of more than seven million fans, and annual turnover had exceeded $280 million.2 At the same time its very success established the ideal conditions for drug use.3 First, it provided an ultra-competitive and hyper-masculine environment where high­risk behaviour was lauded and the rewards for winning were significant. Second, the game became scientised and medicalised as a bevy of coaches, physicians, psychologists, trainers, and dieticians assisted players to secure a winning edge over their opponents. Finally, the pharmaceutical industry introduced new drugs to the marketplace, many of which built strength, improved endurance, heightened awareness, and generally made people feel better.4 These developments raise two salient questions. Firstly, how prevalent has drug-use been in the AFL, and secondly, what has the AFL done about it? This article aims to answer these two questions by mapping the evolution

Sporting Traditions, vol. 25, no. 1 (May 2008), pp. 57­74. Published by the Australian Society for Sports History.


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of the AFL's drug policies through an examination of critical incidents and cases. Although there has been an extensive analysis of the game's social and commercial development over the last 25 years,5 there has been no examination of drug use in elite Australian Rules football competitions.

Evolution of AFL drug policy

Before the 1990s there was no drug code in any of Australia's professional sport leagues. However, at the time of its formation the AFL was quick to see the problems it could face if it left the drug problem unchecked, and in the wake of the Black Report6 and the establishment of Australian Sport Drug Agency (ASDA) in 1990, the League developed an anti-drug code, one of the first in Australia, that soon became a model for other Australian sport associations and leagues. It compiled a list of banned performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), implemented both in-season and out-of-season testing procedures using the facilities of ASDA, re-structured its tribunal system to hear breaches of the code, and imposed sanctions for their use. It also introduced a comprehensive player education program. In 1998 the League strengthened its code by providing a two year suspension for players found guilty of taking steroids, stimulants and diuretics as masking agents, even if it was a first offence. Players who committed a second doping offence could receive a life-time suspension.7 This was consistent with subsequent policy of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which was established in 1999 to provide an international anti-doping policy template8 and ensure global policy harmonisation.9 In 2005, the AFL extended its PEDs-centred anti-doping policy to embrace illicit drugs, which included cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.10 With the addition of its illicit drug policy (IDP), testing would be done both inseason and out-of-season, and both pre and post match. This measure was taken not only because WADA had widened its anti-doping net, but also because the AFL believed it had an obligation to protect the health of athletes and the good name and integrity of the sport.11 This policy was endorsed by the AFL Player's Association (AFLPA) on the grounds that it would provide an early warning of problem drug-use, and in addition the standard playing contract included a clause that required players to submit themselves `without limitation (to) a blood or urine test'.12 The AFL resolved that its IDP should be both preventative and punitive.13 That is, it should aim to educate, counsel and treat players on illicit drug use as well as punishing those who used a banned substance.14 In the case of cannabis, for a first in or out-of-season offence players would have to undertake private counselling, while for a second offence they would be asked to submit to a rehabilitation program. For a third offence clubs would be advised, and the case then referred to a disciplinary tribunal where the player

would face a possible suspension.15 However, complications arose when it became known that the WADA Code for illicit drugs, which had become the Australian Government's policy, was more punitive for in-season testing that the AFL's `three-strikes' policy, as it was now being called. For a first offence players could face a three to twelve-month suspension, and for a second offence the penalty was a maximum two years. For a third offence the player could be banned from the sport for life.16 The AFL defended its softer in-season position on the grounds that the more serious drug problem was the performance enhancing one, and that some illicit drugs were no more harmful to health than alcohol and tobacco.17 However, the Australian Government insisted that the AFL commit to its WADA-driven policy, and reminded the AFL Commission that if it did not comply it would lose its Government funding. The print media was also critical of the AFL's stance, and felt that as Australia's premier sports league, it had had an obligation to `crack down on drug abuse'.18 The pressure on the AFL to comply with the WADA code was heightened when both Cricket Australia and National Ruby League signed up.19 Weakened by the bulk of media opinion opposed to its policy, the AFL capitulated when it was clear that the Australian Government would not compromise its position.20

Drug-use cases and incidents in Australian football

While the above discussion confirms that the AFL pioneered the development of anti-doping codes in professional sport in Australia and took its drug management responsibilities seriously, it does not mean it managed its code efficiently or introduced the most appropriate code. Its 2005 dispute with the Federal Government is a good example of the complications that can arise when an alternative template is utilised. Moreover, several cases highlighted the difficulties in meeting the frequently conflicting demands of clubs, officials, and the media on one hand, and players, their agents, and unions on the other. They are reviewed below.

Justin Charles

Justin Charles played 36 games for Footscray from 1989 to 1993 and an additional 54 games for Richmond from 1995 to 1998. In 1996 he finished equal seventh in the Brownlow Medal. In June 1997, Charles was tested as part of the normal AFL drugs screening process, and subsequent analysis revealed traces of boldenone, an injectable steroid that remains present in the body for an extended period of time. 21 Charles admitted its use, but defended his actions by claiming he used it during the pre-season to assist in overcoming a chronic groin injury. Under the AFL's drug code in 1997, penalties ranged from rehabilitation to 22 weeks for the first offence, through to a life ban for a third offence. In September 1997, the AFL Tribunal handed Charles a 16-week suspension,


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which made him ineligible to play until round 17 of the 1998 season. The Tribunal Chair Neil Busse indicated that the maximum penalty was not applied because of Charles' motives, his early guilty plea, stated remorse, intention to undergo drug counselling, and decision to undertake community services with the Australian Drug Foundation.22 In 1998, Charles returned to play two AFL games immediately after his suspension expired but played out the season in the reserve grade. At the season's end, he announced his retirement citing an unwillingness to have surgery to repair a degenerative hip condition.23

Ilija Grgic

Illija Grjic began his playing career with the Footscray Football Club in 1993. He was subsequently recruited by the West Coast Eagles in 1996 and played another 23 games before playing two additional games with Essendon in 1999. While at the Eagles, and only days after Justin Charles' positive test was announced, Grgic tested positive to the banned stimulant methoxyphenamine. Grgic's argument was that he ingested the prohibited substance while consuming an over-the-counter influenza remedy. At the time of Grgic's positive tests there had been six cases of players using stimulants (e.g. pseudoephedrine, methoxyphenamine, dextropropoxyphene and probenecid) found in over-the-counter medicines. All were found to have been taken inadvertently, and had been declared before the test. As a result, the cases were handled discretely without any name-disclosure occurring.24 The Tribunal accepted the thrust of Grjic's defence and he was cleared of the charge. However, The AFL was keen to send a punitive message to clubs, and the West Coast Eagles were subsequently fined $5000 because the club doctor had failed to inform the AFL Commission of his prescription to Grgic as required by the AFL drug code.25

As part of his CFS treatment, Lynch was advised by his medical practitioner to take a herbal supplement which contained dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).29 DHEA is a steroid and at the time was unregistered for medical use in Australia and therefore illegal to import. Lynch consulted the list of banned substances only to find that DHEA was not listed. While DHEA was subsequently listed as a banned substance, Lynch, was unaware of this change, and continued to use the newly-prohibited substance. As soon as Lynch became aware of DHEAs banned status he informed the AFL, and in April 1998 he advised that he had inadvertently taken a drug that was banned under the League's drug code.30 Lynch was confronted with a serious situation since the AFL's anti-doping code did not provide for therapeutic use of substances like steroids. The AFL was placed in an invidious position. One the one hand there was the need for compliance with the relevant policies, but on the other hand there was a need to ensure that approved medication was available to athletes to overcome legitimate health problems. The AFL drug code of the time demanded that all such matters be referred to the AFL tribunal and Lynch was subsequently charged with breaching item 10 of section 23 of the AFL's anti-doping code.31 After a protracted three-week inquiry, Lynch was found not guilty of breaching the code. The tribunal concluded that `Alastair Lynch did not act in breach of the AFL Anti-Doping Code as at all times he acted bona fide in accordance with and in reliance upon what he reasonably and understandably believed to be the advice of an independent organisation he was directed to make enquiries to as to whether he could or could not take a particular substance'.32

Alastair Lynch

Alastair Lynch was recruited from Tasmania, and played 120 games for Fitzroy from 1988 to 1992 and an additional 186 games with the Brisbane Bears/Lions from 1994 to 2006, including three grand final victories. The circumstances of this case can be traced back to 1995 when Lynch was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).26 Lynch played only the first round of the 1995 season before CFS ended his season. Seasons 1996 and 1997 saw Lynch play 15 and 20 games respectively, but in 1996 he never played more than five matches in succession and avoided travelling to Perth. However, during the 1998 pre-season Lynch improved his physical condition considerably, and the media commented favourably on his appearance. One newspaper described Lynch as `reportedly fitter than at any time in his career' and was `regarded as the strongest player in the club'.27 Another wrote that Lynch `seems in better shape than he has been in during his four seasons at the club'.28

Nick Stone

Recruited from Claremont, Stone played 33 games for the West Coast Eagles from 1996 to 2000. In 2000 he tested positive to amphetamine and methamphetamine, active ingredients in illicit recreational drugs known colloquially as speed and ecstasy. He was delisted by West Coast three weeks before his scheduled appearance at the AFL Tribunal and never again played AFL football. Stone claimed that his drink had been `spiked' at a bar and were therefore ingested without his knowledge. The tribunal accepted Stone's version of events, concluding that the presence of the drugs was a result of `unintentional administration'.33 Notwithstanding this, the Tribunal banned Stone from any AFL match for six weeks, a penalty that would not have resulted in any missed games for Stone because the suspension would be served between October and November when no AFL games were scheduled. Tribunal chairman Brian Collis QC described this as a `Clayton's penalty' and the drug code guidelines as `ridiculous'34.


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In the context of the AFL's evolving drug policy, the Stone case is noteworthy since he was the first AFL player to be charged with recreational drug use under the league's anti-doping code. Moreover, the decision continued a hardline approach whereby the tribunal may accept a drinkspiking argument but not make a player innocent of breaching the code, or make a player immune from sanction. The decision also highlighted the difference -- in the eyes of the AFL at least -- between the inadvertent use of banned substances via prescribed medicines and the inadvertent use of banned substances via recreational drugs.

hinged upon the rights of players to use the same medication that was available to the wider community.

Lawrence Angwin

Lawrence Angwin was recruited to the Adelaide Crows as a first round draft pick in 2001. After a number of off-field indiscretions he returned to his home in Victoria without playing a senior game for Adelaide where he was signed by Hawthorn and played a number of games with the Box Hill Hawks in the Victorian Football League. After some more wayward behaviour that contravened club rules, he was traded to Carlton where he was placed on the rookie list and played a few senior games in the 2003 season. At the beginning of the 2004 season, Angwin attended training under the influence of illicit party drugs including ecstasy, and was suspended together with his playing colleague, Karl Norman, who was also intoxicated. Angwin was given counselling, but it did not curb his desire to consume illicit drugs. To avoid any further embarrassment to the club and disruption to other players, the club terminated Angwin's contract. He resumed his football career in Cairns in far north Queensland where media scrutiny of footballers was less onerous, and the drug testing less vigorous. While Angwin did not test positive to any banned substance during his AFL career, his admission of drug use was sufficient for Carlton to terminate his contract. The standard playing contract lists a number of factors that can lead to a player's services being severed including misconduct that involves substance abuse.37 The Angwin case also created a high degree of moral panic amongst AFL officials since he alleged that he and Norman were two of many AFL players regularly using illicit recreational drugs.38

Stephen Koops

Stephen Koops had an injury-riddled career for the Fremantle Football Club between 1996 and 2003 and for the Western Bulldogs in 2004. In 1999 Koops tested positive to pethidine, a narcotic analgesic. Pethidine is among the strongest known painkillers and at the time was listed by ASDA in the same category as heroin and morphine. While it was not considered a performanceenhancing substance, it was prohibited because firstly, regular use could put an athlete's health at risk, and second, because it was a restricted substance within the general community. It was agreed by all parties that Koops had been administered the drug whilst recuperating in hospital following knee surgery. The AFL acknowledged the extenuating circumstances surrounding Koops' positive test, but despite these almost farcical circumstances, it was bound to follow due process. AFL's discretionary powers were almost nonexistent since it had contracted ASDA to manage its drug testing procedures, and ASDA was constrained by legislation which demanded that once a breach was established the case must be heard. Koops pleaded guilty but received no penalty because the positive test resulted from reasonable therapeutic activity at the prescription and direction of a duly qualified medical practitioner. Furthermore, Koops established to the satisfaction of the tribunal that he did not know he had taken or been administered the relevant substance and had acted reasonably given the circumstances.35 As in the Grgic case, the AFL apportioned some of the blame to the player's club. Although disputed by Fremantle, the AFL concluded that the club did not follow proper procedure in informing the AFL of Koop's treatment and exposure to pethidine. The AFL fined Fremantle $5000 for this breach. In April 2002, the case was reopened following submissions from Fremantle. Tribunal Chairman Brian Collis posited that Koops' conviction `arose through circumstances beyond his control' and that the incident was an `isolated, rare and exceptional case'.36 This finding permitted the club to have Koops' name removed from ASDA's doping offenders' register. The Koops case is not unrelated to that of Alastair Lynch, since both incidents

Un-named Hawthorn players

This incident began as an apparent chance-finding of incriminating documents in a suburban Melbourne street, and ended up becoming a sleazy media beat-up. It commenced in mid-August 2007, when a television reporter with the Seven Network was given confidential medical records by a person who apparently found the documents laying in the gutter not far from the Victorian Addiction Centre, a drug treatment clinic.39 The documents, which listed the medical records of two Hawthorn Football Club players, indicated that they had received treatment for the regular use of an illicit drug.40 The documents also implicated at least two other Hawthorn players. The Channel 7 reporter presented his story on a news service, and while revealing the name of the club and the treatment being received, did not mention the names of the players. When questioned about the incident, the Hawthorn CEO confirmed that he did not know the players' names, which was consistent with the AFL's illicit


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drug policy, where only the club doctor is advised of a player's first and second positive test, thus protecting the privacy of players.41 It was subsequently revealed that the documents had probably been stolen, and that Channel 7 had paid $3,000 to secure them.42 Both the AFL Commission and the Players Association were `outraged by the Seven Network's decision to broadcast the drug allegations' without any regard for the privacy of the players involved, and a number of players involved in up-coming games threatened to blackban the network by refusing to make themselves available for pre and postmatch interviews.43 A truce was reached when a Channel 7 reporter was stood down, and the network apologised for any grief it may have caused to players or officials at the Hawthorn Football Club.

suspecting Braun of using a performance enhancing substance, and offered an apology to him. The Seven Network and Fairfax Radio, who had both claimed Braun was the player referred to by Akermanis, also provided an apology, and Braun was awarded damages of $60,000 in an out-of-court settlement.48

Ben Cousins

Ben Cousins played 238 games between 1996 and 2007 with the West Coast Eagles and was amongst the most outstanding players of his generation. He won the Brownlow Medal in 2006, was selected in the All-Australian team on six occasions, was a four-time club best and fairest winner, as well as club captain for five years. In addition to his outstanding exploits on the field, however, Cousins was linked to underworld crime figures, pleaded guilty to obstructing traffic and police, was alleged to have assaulted team mates, and was arrested for being drunk in a public place.49 These incidents indicated that Cousins had a volatile off-field life, but they paled into insignificance when compared to events that unfolded in 2007. The West Coast Eagles suspended Cousins indefinitely two weeks before the start of the season. At the time the club cited two missed training sessions but also hinted at a `number of personal and professional issues'.50 Within days it was confirmed that Cousins had used a prohibited substance, had a substance abuse problem and would be seeking rehabilitation in the United States. However, it was not clear exactly what type of substance abuse Cousin's suffered from, or whether it was performance enhancing or an illicit recreational drug. It was later identified as an illicit drug. The AFL Commission response was twofold. First, it threatened the Eagles with fines, the loss of premiership points and the loss of draft picks if their players' off-field behaviour did not improve.51 Second, it elected not to impose its own sanctions upon Cousins, preferring instead to place stringent conditions -- agreement for regular testing, and approval by an AFL appointed medical officer -- upon his return to football.52 Three factors explain the AFL's rationale for not invoking its out-of-competition Illicit Drugs Policy (IDP), which can impose a 12-week suspension to players who breaches it three times. First, Cousins was not detected under the code, and neither had he tested positive to a banned substance. Second, none of the 25 players who had previously breached the code were suspended.53 Third, there was the belief that a long suspension from football may act as a disincentive for Cousins to rehabilitate, and this was not the aim of the IDP.54 The AFL's refusal to suspend Cousins drew condemnation from many in the media who were already dissatisfied with the AFL's out-of-competition IDP `three-strikes' policy. Patrick Smith, writing in the Australian, commented that because of this approach, `the AFL has forfeited the right to say that as a competition it is tough on illicit drugs'.55 He further asserted that it was the

michael Braun

Michael Braun was recruited by the West Coast Eagles from Victoria in 1996, and since then has played more than 150 games, mostly as a midfielder. During that time he positioned himself as an integral component of one the AFL's best on-ball groups alongside of Ben Cousins, Chris Judd and Daniel Kerr. Near the end of the 2007 season Jason Akermanis, the Western Bulldogs player who made his name with the Brisbane Lions, wrote a newspaper article in which he commented on his duel with an opponent during a game against the West Coast Eagles. Akermanis noted that his opponent had `played like a superman'.44 He did not name his opponent, but thought his form was so surprisingly good that he may well have been using performance enhancing drugs, and EPO in particular. The un-named player turned out to be Michael Braun, and his name was splashed across the nation's newspapers over the following days. Akermanis was heavily criticised for providing no evidence to support his allegation. Michael Voss, one of Akermanis' old Brisbane Lions team-mates, commented that Braun had been the victim of a `character assassination', and that he had been labelled a drug cheat without a `shred of evidence'.45 Media commentator Patrick Smith labelled the comments as madness, and "savagely unfair on Braun".46 Notwithstanding the minimal credibility attached to Akermanis' article, the allegation was referred to the Australian Sports antiDoping Authority (ASADA), which having replaced ASDA as the nation's drugs-in-sport watchdog, used its newly secured investigatory powers to review the incident. ASADA examined Braun's `previous test history', other targeted testing that took place, and initiated a `review of the available intelligence'. It concluded that there was `no evidence to at this time to support any allegation of the use of performance enhancing substances by the player'.47 Braun was left to ponder the slur on his professional reputation, and what compensation he might secure to cover the hurt he suffered. After some intensive legal negotiation Akermanis cited envy as the reason for wrongly


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AFL, just as much as Cousins, which had brought the game into disrepute. Amid considerable hype and expectation, Cousins returned to AFL football in Round 16 of the 2007 season, produced a best on ground display, and played out the remainder of the season. After the football season had ended Cousins returned to the headlines when he was identified as being one of the last people to see Chris Mainwaring, a former team-mate, before his drug-related death in mid-October, 2007. Subsequent to Mainwaring's funeral, Cousins was pulled over while driving erratically along a busy Perth street, and was charged with possessing a prohibited drug and failing to comply with a Police-ordered drug assessment.56 Both charges were dropped when the Police found that their evidence was flawed, since the drug they cited as prohibited could in fact be purchased with a doctor's prescription. The Assistant Police Commissioner made a public apology, Cousins received $2000 in court costs, 57 and the decision stopped the West Coast Eagles from immediately terminating his contract. In late October 2007, Cousins again travelled to the United States on the premise of receiving rehabilitation, but was soon admitted to hospital following a cocaine binge. The AFL was compelled to act, and former Supreme Court Justice Bill Gillard, QC was appointed by the AFL to investigate the culture and behaviour of the West Coast Eagles players. Cousins had not been the only player to behave inappropriately and his problem was perceived as a manifestation of the club's culture.58 The Gillard Report concluded that West Coast had undergone a significant transformation aimed at eradicating a culture that had underpinned poor behaviour by its players, and argued that the AFL should not penalise the club any further. The club also initiated its own investigation, appointing former WA Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan and the accounting firm KPMG Partner Steve Scudamore, to co-lead the review. Their report was released in February 2008 and identified 35 separate incidents of inappropriate off-field behaviour involving thirteen players over the previous six years.59 Cousins was brought before the AFL Commission in November 2007 and found guilty of `conduct unbecoming', and of `bringing the game into disrepute'.60 The 12-month suspension made him ineligible for the 2008 season. The suspension was also without precedent, and while it was within the limits set by the AFL's drug code, it was likely to have been much harsher than `any handed down in a criminal court'. 61 It is also unclear as how the AFL was allowed to act the way it did given that `Cousins was no longer an employee of any club at the time of the hearing'. 62

What does it all mean?

What do these cases reveal about first, the scale and scope of drug use in the AFL, and second, how the AFL went about regulating players' use of drugs? The Grjic incident highlights the grey areas that exist in sport drug codes,

the confusion that surrounds the use of drugs that are freely available in the wider community, and under what conditions inadvertent use can be used as a defence. It also brings to the foreground the vexing issue of how to educate players about drug use, and in particular how drugs that can be purchased over-the-counter for minor ailments and medical conditions, can also be listed as banned substances for elite sport players. In contrast, the Charles incident was a clear-cut breach of AFL drugs policy, and the Tribunal decision was made all the more easier by a guilty plea and the player accepting responsibility for his actions. In addition to being the code's first positive test for performance-enhancing substances not available over the counter, the Charles incident shattered the illusion that the AFL was a steroid-free zone and signalled the use of performance enhancing substances as a serious indiscretion. It set the scene for further debate on how to regulate the different drug categories and what scale of sanctions should be applied. Unlike the Charles incident, the Lynch case was anything but a clear-cut breach of the AFL's drug policy. As Lynch had always argued, the steroid compound he used was essential for his recovery from a serious health problem, and in any case, it was not initially on the banned list of substances. At the same time, the case raised the issues of where the line between heath restoration and performance enhancement should be drawn and under what circumstances players should be permitted to use banned substances, citing their therapeutic use as a defence. As it turned out, the WADA 2003 Code and its therapeutic exemption clause accepted the Lynch argument that there should be special cases where players can take a banned substance under approved supervision as part of the treatment for an ongoing medical condition.63 The Stone case did not receive the publicity of either the Charles or Lynch cases, but is nevertheless interesting for two reasons. First, it removed any uncertainty about whether a player who takes amphetamines either in or out of competition will face heavy sanctions. Second, while a defence that mentions anything about spiked drinks will receive serious attention by Tribunal members, it does not absolve players from their responsibility to report the incident to AFL officials, or immune them from sanctions. The Koops incident was also hidden in the sports pages at the time but raises the crucial issue of the whether or not high potency painkillers have a place in assisting the injury recovery process for players, particularly when the same surgeon will use them to assist the recovery of non-sports persons. At the moment both the WADA template and the AFL drug policy make it clear that strong analgesics with the potential for dependency are not permitted unless there is an overwhelming medical reason for their use. The Angwin incident showed that the AFL and its member clubs were not


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only serious about regulating the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but also intent on stamping out illicit drug use amongst it players. There had been many rumours about AFL players getting high on a cocktail of party drugs, but the revelations of Angwin, and his football team-mate Norman, suggested that illicit drug use was far more widespread than previously believed. The incidents relating to Michael Braun and the two un-named Hawthorn players are disturbing, mainly because they undermined players' rights to privacy and natural justice. In each instance the rights of players were trampled in the race to reveal what players may have done to either get a winning edge, or spice-up their spare time.64 Moreover, public allegations were made about the character of players and their personal behaviour that relied on nothing more than flimsy evidence and innuendo. In addition, the un-named Hawthorn players' case illuminates the confusion that exists between drug use that occurs in-competition and drug that occurs out-of-competition, and their corresponding sanctions. The referral of the players to a drug treatment clinic was in line with the AFL's out-of-competition illicit drug policy, where for a first and second offence players would receive confidential counselling and treatment. Further complications resulted when club officials were not made aware of the case, and while this caused widespread embarrassment, it was consistent with the AFL's IDP rules, which aimed to protect the confidentiality of the incident and ensure player privacy. Despite the fact that the expose by the Channel 7 television reporter constituted a serious invasion of player privacy, the Federal Minister of Sport, Senator George Brandis, used the incident to attack the AFL's drug policy, labelling it as `excessively lenient', and sending the wrong message to other players because the offending players were `not punished'.65 What Brandis did not say though, was that the drugs were taken out-of-competition and that the drug use did not contravene the WADA anti-doping template. The Cousins saga not only gained the most media coverage, but it also had many significant implications for AFL drugs policy. It confirmed that illicit drug use was prevalent amongst many groups of AFL players, and was not confined to fringe players like Angwin and Norman whose behaviour might be excused on the ground that they were easily led or just very immature. Like the Andrew Johns case, the Cousins saga created enormous cognitive dissonance in that it was difficult to believe that a player could perform so well for long while also regularly taking a drug of dependence. The Cousins case placed pressure on the AFL to `get tough' on illicit drug use, and as Senator Brandis had urged, to overhaul its `three-strikes' policy for players who test positive for recreational drugs out-of season. It shifted attention away from performance enhancing substances to recreational drug use, which again was the thrust of the Brandis policy adjustment in 2007. Finally, it made drug use a far more serious offence than either on or off-field assaults, where players

who take illicit drugs in-season are liable to incur a 22-week suspension for a third offence, whereas players who seriously injure an opponent with a `kinghit' will get between six and eight weeks.66


The cases discussed above demonstrate that despite the best of intentions, the AFL's drug management policies have been fraught with confusion about their effectiveness in curbing drug use, protecting the well-being of players, and ensuring the reputation and good standing of the AFL. Take, for example, the problem of identifying the prevalence of drug use in the AFL. At first glance it appears that football is clean in the sense that there have been so few positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs and so few suspensions over the lifetime of the AFL's drug code. This conclusion therefore undermines any claim that football clubs are havens of drug use, and negates the view that the pressure on big-time professional sports players to take drugs is overwhelmingly powerful. It suggests that the AFL drug code has delivered an effective outcome, and that its status as a model code is justified. On the other hand, there is a countervailing view that the small amount of positive tests are a symptom of a flawed policy arrangement and testing protocol whereby doping cheats slip through the testing net. Evidence suggests that a lack of vigilance in testing leads to more drug use67, and in the case of the AFL-ASADA arrangements, may involve infrequent testing, a lack of targeted testing, or, as in the case of the BALCO68 scandal in the USA, testing procedures that are unable to detect new forms of designer steroids.69 Justin Charles conceded as much when he recently stated `I may have been the first person caught for using steroids, but if you think I was the last, then you are kidding yourself'.70 It is also worth noting that whereas Australia's top 20 track and field athletes can be tested from five to ten times a year, AFL players will on average be tested no more than once a year. Brent Harvey, a leading AFL player, indicated that he had not been tested once in 2007 for performance-enhancing drugs.71 At the same time an ASADA commissioned study of elite athletes found that 30 per cent of them believed they `could get away with using performance enhancing drugs'.72 Moreover, by trying to cover all bases, and testing for illicit drugs out-ofseason as well as in-season, the AFL has taken on the role of social do-gooder without fully examining the implications of this superficially honourable position. At first glance this seemed to be a constructive step by aiming to preserve the health and well being of players, but in fact turns out to be a paternalistic tool for controlling the behaviour of players in order to protect the AFL brand. For instance, when a player is found to have tested positive to an illicit drug for a third time, the player `is deemed to have engaged in conduct which is unbecoming or likely to prejudice the reputation ... of the


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Bob Stewart, Geoff Dickson and Aaron Smith Drug Use in the Australian Football League: A Critical Survey


AFL or bring the game ... into disrepute'.73 However, the price paid for brand protection is the loss of the player's right to privacy coupled with a suspension that is likely to be disproportionate to the seriousness of the violation. It is demonstrably unfair to reveal a player's private medical records, or ban an athlete from competing on the grounds that they were found to have taken drugs that do nothing to improve sporting performance. These extended drug testing arrangements also provide the conditions for media speculation and gossip, where allegations are made on the basis of hearsay and rumour. The Players' Association admitted that it had growing reservations about the AFL's IDP for these very reasons.74 It is therefore doubtful that the AFL antidoping code has successfully balanced the need to secure a level playing field and strong league brand against the need to protect the rights of players and safeguard their long term health and welfare. This is despite the fact that the AFL's position was underpinned by various drug agency recommendations that good policy should not only include a strong testing regime and appropriate sanctions for use and trafficking, but also a raft of educational, counselling, and rehabilitation services.75 A troublesome aspect of the AFL drug code is that it struggles to acknowledge the broader contextual pressures that face elite athletes in their daily grind to build their bodies and minds in order to secure a competitive advantage. Under market conditions where players are assets to be lauded when playing well, or abandoned when out-of-form, and where success has significant financial implications, PEDs provide a compelling opportunity for players to stay in the game. The hyper-commercialized sports-world and the media frenzy it elicits induces a sport culture that values doing whatever it takes to gain a winning edge.76 In addition, as Andrew Johns, one of Australian greatest rugby players admitted when discussing his drug dependency problem, the pressure to perform is accompanied by a corresponding psychological stress, which can be in part alleviated through illicit drug and alcohol use.77 Dealing with the pressures of professional sport in this manner is also bolstered by club cultures that emphasise playing hard both off and on the field. As the recent West Coast Eagles experience suggests, masculine posturing is strongly tied to the transgression of fear of physical injury and bodily damage, irrespective of whether it comes from binge drinking at a club function, the use of illicit party drugs, an on-field collision, or a street brawl.78 Paradoxically, the AFL has been too conscientious in its desire to manage all aspects of drug use in the sport. By taking on the responsibility for monitoring illicit drug use out-of competition it has over-reached its role as the manager of a professional sports league, the keeper of the code, and the body responsible for growing the sport. It is not the player's moral guardian, and nor is it responsible for the behaviour of players once they leave their

workplace, which in this context is the playing field, the training ground, and the club room. As a media commentator noted, if the moral education of players and fans is a problem they should be instructed to `spend more time in churches, mosques and synagogues'.79 The AFL would still keep its reputation for player welfare and a quality competition intact if it limited its drug code to PEDs, which means those substances that give players an unfair advantage over their rivals, and spent more resources on better managing the culture that breeds drug use in the first place. At the moment the AFL's illicit drug code, which combines WADA's punitive model with the drug abuse treatment industry emphasis on harm reduction, has created confusion amongst officials and fans alike, and provides the conditions where players' off-season privacy will be regularly invaded by a media-pack hungry for scandal and titillation. These problematic issues provide the perfect opportunity to re-ignite the drugs-in-sport debate to see what other options may be implemented, and how a more educative and less punitive model could reduce the harms to players while maintaining the good standing of sport in general, and Australian football in particular.


1 Robert Macdonald and Ross Booth, `Around the Grounds: A Comparative Analysis of Football in Australia, in Bob Stewart (editor) The Games are Not the Same: The Political Economy of Football in Australia, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2007, pp. 236­331. 2 Robert Grant, `Boom Times for AFL-and its Boss', Age `Sport', 1 March 2008, p. 3. 3 Ivan Waddington, Sport, Health and Drugs: A Critical and Sociological Perspective, E&FN Spon, London, 2000, pp. 114­16. 4 Waddington, Sport, Health and Drugs, pp. 114­16. 5 Tim Hogan (ed.) Reading the Game: An Annotated Guide To The Literature And Films Of Australian Rules Football: ASSH Studies 18, Australian Society for Sports History, Melbourne, 2005. 6 Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts (SSCERA) Drugs in Sport: Interim Report, Australian Government, Canberra, 1988. 7 AFL, Annual Report 1998, AFL, Melbourne, 1999, p. 82. 8 World Anti-Doping Agency, Strategic Plan: 2004­09, WADA, Toronto, 2003, pp. 2­8. 9 World Anti-Doping Agency, World Anti-Doping Code, WADA, Toronto, 2003, pp. 1­2. 10 AFL, Illicit Drugs Policy, AFL, Melbourne, 2005. 11 AFL, Annual Report 2004, AFL, Melbourne, 2005, p. 23. 12 AFL, Standard Playing Contract p. 6. 13 AFL, Illicit Drugs Policy, AFL, Melbourne, 2005, p. 3.


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Bob Stewart, Geoff Dickson and Aaron Smith Drug Use in the Australian Football League: A Critical Survey


14 Paul Horvath, `Anti-doping and Human Rights in Sport: The Case of the AFL and the WADA code', Monash University Law Review, Vol 32, no. 2, 2006, p.358-359. 15 AFL, Press Release: The AFL and WADA: room for compromise, 8 July 2005. 16 World Anti-Doping Agency, World Anti-Doping Code, pp. 28­29. 17 AFL, Press Release: The AFL and WADA 18 Patrick Smith, `AFL Drugs Stance is All Smoke and Mirrors', The Australian, 1 July 2005, p. 35. 19 Senator Rod Kemp (Minister for Arts and Sport) Press Release: AFL to become WADA Compliant, August 4, 2005. 20 For a detailed a analysis of the dispute between the AFL and Australian Government over its drug policy see Bob Stewart, `The World AntiDoping Agency and the Australian Footall League: The Irresistible Force Bludgeons the Immovable Object', in Matthew Nicholson, Bob Stewart and Rob Hess (eds.) Football Fever: Moving the Goalposts, Maribyrnong Press, Hawthorn, 2006, pp. 107­14. 21 Costas Maravelias, Artemis Dona, Maria Stefanidou, and Chaido Spiliopoulou, `Adverse Effects of Anabolic Steroids in Athletes: A Constant Threat, Toxicology Letters, Vol. 158, no. 3, 2005, pp. 165­78. 22 Michael Davis, `Let This Be a Lesson to All -- Charles Cries'. The Australian, 5 September 1997, p. 22. 23 Daryl Timms, `Charles Quits Tigers'. Herald-Sun, 24 September 1998, p. 89. 24 Warwick Hadfield, `Time for Positive Thinking on Grgic'. Australian, 15 September 1997, p. 19. 25 Ashley Browne, `Strange Days Have Tracked Us Down', Age, 8 May 1998, p. 4. 26 Alastair Lynch (with Peter Blucher), Taking Nothing for Granted: From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to the MCG, Harper Sports, Pymble, 2005, pp. 89-91. 27 Anonymous, `Lynch, Voss Expected to Meet Crows', Australian, 3 March 1998, p. 20. 28 Simon Madden, `Madden's Message, Brisbane Lions', West Australian, 9 March 1998, p. 4. 29 Lynch and Blucher, Taking Nothing for Granted, pp. 149­53. 30 Lynch and Blucher, Taking Nothing for Granted, pp. 147­48. 31 Lynch and Blucher, Taking Nothing for Granted, p. 154. 32 Lynch and Blucher, Taking Nothing for Granted, pp. 164­65. 33 Bruce Matthews, `Clayton's Drug Ban', Adelaide Advertiser, 5 October 2000, p. 94. 34 Bruce Matthews, `Drugs Farce Riles Collis', Herald-Sun, 5 October 2000, p. 104. 35 John McGrath, `Koops Verdict Angers Players', The West Australian, 17 July 1999, p. 112.

36 Mark Duffield, `Koops is Absolved by Tribunal', Age, 30 April 2002, p. 2. 37 AFL, Standard Playing Contract p.10, AFL, Players' Code of Conduct, clause 5. 38 Dan Oakes, `Drug Taking Rife in the AFL, Claims Sacked Blue', Age, 18 May 2005, p. 22. 39 Dan Silkstone, `Drug Claim Rocks AFL', www.real, accessed 25 August 2007. 40 Silkstone, `Drug Claim Rocks AFL'. 41 Chip Le Grand, `Leak Plunges the AFL into New Drug Scandal', Weekend Australian, 25­26 August 2007, p. 47. 42 Michelangelo Rucci and David Hastie, `Players Pull the Plug', Herald Sun, 29 August 2007, p. 74. 43 Samantha Lane and Caroline Wilson, `Seven Tries to Arrest Ban Damage', Age, 29 August 2007, p. 4. 44 Malcom Conn, `Akermanis Defends Drug Accusation', Australian, 8 August 2007, p. 18. 45 Michael Voss, `Call of Cheat Must Come with Proof', Sunday Age `Sport', 2007, p. 7. 46 Patrick Smith, `Code Bleeding on Paper Cuts', Australian, 8 August 2007, p. 20. 47 Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, ASADA statement on AFL player Michael Braun, Media Release, 20 August, 2007, p. 1. 48 AAP, `Aka Drug Backdown', Age `Sport', 25­26 April 2008, p. 4. 49 Courtney Walsh, `Cousin's Sorry Future, Weekend Australian, 5­7 May 2007, p. 51. 50 Anonymous, `Cousins: The Only Possible Thing to Do', Age, 21 March 2007, p. 14. 51 Greg Denham, `Last-Chance Warning for Eagles', The Australian, 30 April 2007, p. 19. 52 Richard Hinds, `Cousins to Play When AFL Says So', Sydney Morning Herald, 30 April 2007, p. 11. 53 Damien Barrett, `Don't Forget We Banned Ben, Not the AFL', HeraldSun, 16 June 2007, p. 34. 54 C. Egan, `Trial by Media Report'. Sunday Times (Perth), 18 November 2007, p. 5; Karen Lyons and Dan Silkstone, `Let Cousins Play Again to Aid Rehabilitation, Urges Manager', Herald-Sun, 21 October 2007, p. 90. 55 Patrick Smith, `Halfway House for Drug Users', The Australian, 30 April 2007, p. 19. 56 Janet Fife-Yeomans and Michelle Cazzulino, `Sorry Ben, the Party is Over', Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2007, pp.1, 4. 57 Courtney Walsh, `Police Bungle Won't Save Cousins', The Australian, 14 November 2007, p. 20. 58 See for example John Lyons, `The Boys Are Back', The Weekend Australian Magazine, 16­17 February 2008, pp.14­19.


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59 Hendy Cowan and KPMG, Independent Review of the West Coast Eagles Football Club Governance Structures and Management Processes in Relation to Player Behaviour and Welfare (The CowanScudamore Report), February 2008. pp. 4­6. 60 Anonymous, `Cousins Banned For Year', Daily Telegraph, 20 November 2007, p. 5. 61 Renee Clarkson and Ian Warren, `The Anomalies of the Ben Cousins Saga', Bulletin of Sport and Culture, Number 29, March 2008, p. 12. 62 Clarkson and Warren, `The Anomalies of the Ben Cousins Saga', p. 12. 63 World Anti-Doping Agency, World Anti-Doping Code, p. 17. 64 Samantha Lane and Len Johnson, `Drug Push an Infringement of Privacy', Age `Sport', 26 May 2007, p. 3. 65 Silkstone, `Drug Claim Rocks AFL'. 66 Len Johnson, `Seven Up for Hall of Shame', Age `Sport', 16 April 2008, pp. 2­3. 67 G. Vogel, `A Race to the Starting Line', Science, vol. 305, pp. 632­36. 68 Otherwise know as the (San Francisco) Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative. 69 Will Carroll, Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems, Dee Books, Chicago, 2005, pp. 13­14. 70 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, radio transcript, Sport Factor, 3 December 2004. 71 Jenny McAsey, `Footy Codes Not Trying on Drugs', Weekend Australian, 4­5 August 2007, p. 51. 72 Nicole Jeffrey and Shaun Parnell, `Testing Must Be Smarter: Fahey', Australian, 14 March 2008, p. 18. 73 AFL, Illicit Drugs Policy, p. 9. 74 Lane and Johnson, `Drug push', p. 3. 75 British Medical Association, `Policy Instruments to Prevent the Use of Drugs in Sport', in Drugs in Sport: The Pressure to Perform, London, British Medical Association, 2002, pp. 89­112; Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, Parliament of Victoria, Harm Minimisation: Principles and Policy Frameworks (Occasional Paper No. 1), Parliament of Victoria, 2000. 76 G. Gems, `Sports, War, and Ideological Imperialism', Peace Review, vol. 11, pp. 573­78. 77 Dean Ritchie and Dean Mascord, `League Hero Admits to Years of Drug Use', Herald Sun, 31 August 2007, p. 5. 78 A. Whitehead, `Man to Man Violence: How Masculinity May Work as a Dynamic Risk Factor', The Howard Journal, vol. 44, 2005, pp. 411­22. 79 Mirko Bagaric, `Its Footy, Stupid', Herald Sun, 7 May 2007, p. 21.


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