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Players' Association open to drug reform

Matt Thompson  January 24, 2013 7:24 PM

AFL 2011 Media - Andrew Demetriou Media Conference 030511

The AFL has forecast an increase in positive drug tests when the figures for 2012 are revealed

AN OVERHAUL of the AFL's controversial three-strike illicit drugs policy is looking increasingly likely, after the players' association said it was willing to discuss what it views as "quite substantial changes."

The issue of 'self reporting' drug use has emerged as a genuine concern.

By self reporting, players can avoid registering a positive test and an official strike.

Although the AFLPA doesn't believe the practice has become the norm, it has already had initial talks with League medicos on the issue.

"There's been some discussion about the opportunity for players to self report. We've had some talks with the AFL medical directors about that," AFLPA player relations manager Ian Prendergast said.

"We don't think it's being exploited as such yet, but perhaps there are some emerging trends that we can deal with quite simply."

Prendergast said the AFLPA was preparing to go to the table at Wednesday's player welfare summit ready to talk.

"We've spoken to them about some minor changes which we think can address some of the issues that arguably are emerging," Prendergast said.

"(They will) allow the policy to maintain that balance in terms of operating as a medical model that's in the best interest of players from a health point of view but also acting as a deterrent to those players that perhaps choose to run the gauntlet."

Prendergast wouldn't speculate on AFL predictions of a spike in first and second strikes from 2012.

The League has also flagged that it is willing to "refine" the illicit drugs code.

Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert called for the drugs summit when he put the issue on the agenda late last year, declaring that substance abuse among players was one of the biggest issues in the game.

Matt Thompson is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @MattThompsonAFL