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Three-strike policy to remain

Adam McNicol  January 30, 2013 5:34 PM

Drugs summit wraps up The AFL world meets to discuss the controversial topic of illicit drug use.
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The AFL has confirmed its three-strike illicit drugs policy will remain

I think what you're going to see is an illicit drug code that everyone is supporting and some changes to that that will make it more effective
A WORKING party has been formed to examine the AFL's illicit drugs policy, although the rules allowing players to be given three strikes before they are punished, known as the "medical model", will not be changed.

However, the confidentiality clauses that are built into the policy, which mean clubs are not informed if one of their players have tested positive until a third strike is recorded, will be reviewed.

Summit conquered, where to now?
 
Whether some players are self-reporting their drug use so they can avoid a strike will also be examined.

"We have made a commitment to an annual working party … to look at ways we can improve the policy (which was introduced in 2005) yet again," AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said.

"There's a commitment to looking at how, and by what mechanism, we can involve the clubs more, provide the clubs with more information, and arm them with the expertise to deal with that information.

"There's a commitment to look at that loophole – closing the self-notification if that's being exploited.

"There's a commitment to looking at revisiting our education programs.

"And there was also a commitment to looking at any mechanisms that we can put in place to help our players deal with this situation when they leave clubs and leave that club environment and how they deal with the external peer groups they go back to."

Alcohol a key issue, says AFL
 
All aspects of player welfare were discussed at a summit held at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

The meeting was attended by the 18 AFL chief executives, representatives from the AFL Players' Association, doctors, drug trade experts from the Australian Federal Police and the boss of the Australian Drug Foundation, John Rogerson.

"I actually thought it was a really positive day," Rogerson said as he left Etihad Stadium.

"I think it's been a really constructive meeting and everyone worked well together.

"I think what you're going to see is an illicit drug code that everyone is supporting and some changes to that that will make it more effective."

The summit was held in response to comments that Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert made at a CEOs' meeting that was held on the Gold Coast prior to November's NAB AFL Draft.

Pert later stated that he believed players were engaging in "volcanic behaviour" during their off-seasons, in part in response to the pressure they are under during the season.

The working party formed to discuss what happens from here includes Pert and the chief executives of Essendon and Gold Coast – Ian Robson and Travis Auld – a number of AFL club doctors and members of the AFLPA.

"Every CEO is concerned – because it's our job to be concerned about our player cultures – about what what's happening now and what potentially happens in the future," said Pert, who added that he remains committed to the "welfare-first" model that underpins the AFL's illicit drugs policy.

Collingwood's Luke Ball, Western Bulldog Robert Murphy and Richmond's Daniel Jackson – all members of the AFL Players' Association board – addressed Wednesday's summit.

"The main thing to come out of it was that every party, all the stakeholders, are on the same page and pushing for the same thing," said Ball, who is the AFLPA president.

"So I think it was a really constructive day."

St Kilda chief executive Michael Nettlefold was similarly positive.

"There's more work to be done, but we had some great outcomes," he said.

"We learnt a lot of things. There's areas where we can improve communication across all parties.

"I think there's recognition that the clubs have got a vital role to play in this, so I think, generally speaking, it was a really constructive day."

Despite all the niceties, striking an agreement between the clubs and the players, especially when it comes to the confidentiality clause, will not be easy.

"I think what we have committed to is to recognise that there is a genuine interest, and I believe it is in good faith and well-founded, from clubs to get more involved in the policy," AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis said.

"That's something which we haven't comprehensively looked at for some time, and I'm prepared to consider that in good faith, considering the way it has been brought to the table.

"It was also very clear today from the players that there are some fundamental pillars to the policy, that are grounded in welfare-first and confidentiality, which the players hold very dear."

Given that, Demetriou has not set a timeframe as to when the working party will hand down its recommendations.

"But I'm pretty certain, given what I've heard today about the self-notification, that it is something that can be addressed pretty quickly," Demetriou said.

"Everybody acknowledged today … that if there is an area of the self-notification that should be closed, then we will."

The AFL has pledged to both step up its illicit testing regime, especially hair testing, and address the simmering issue of players' work/life balance.