AFL PLAYERS are "having a laugh" at the Illicit Drugs Policy in the off-season and a crackdown is needed to change their behaviour, according to former Collingwood premiership captain Nick Maxwell.
In the wake of claims from Magpies CEO Gary Pert that players' drug use was the biggest issue facing the competition, Maxwell derided the IDP an "absolute failure at the moment".
Maxwell, who is now a part-time leadership mentor and backline advisor at Greater Western Sydney, said feedback from players at a range of clubs revealed that the recently-revised IDP wasn't an effective deterrent.
"I think that now players are basically having a laugh in the off-season because they've got their six or eight weeks and they know they can do what they want to do," Maxwell told SEN.
"And the only result of that is when they get back and are hair-tested they've got to sit down with the doctor and have a one-on-one conversation.
"The big thing for me is the whole attitude has to change across the board. It's a problem in society, everyone acknowledges that.
"So either the AFL and the AFLPA, who pride themselves on leadership in these type of issues, they've got to make a stance and go 'righto, we understand we might lose a few along the way here' and we might have to batten down the hatches.
"But for the betterment of the players, the betterment of the game and as a leader in the industry, they've got to either be real leaders and step up and go 'enough's enough' we're going to go hard here and we're going to hair test four times a year … and it counts and really start penalising (players)."
The IDP, which players voluntarily agree to and is based on a medical model, was reviewed after last season by the League and AFL Players' Association.
A single strike now sees a player slapped with a $5000 suspended fine and become the subject of target testing, but they remain anonymous.
However, after a second strike players will be named publicly and banned for four games, while a third strike results in a 12-month ban.
Players were hair-tested last year for research purposes only and the anonymous results don't count towards a 'strike' on a player's record.
Positive urine test results are now also kept confidential under the bargain struck by the League and AFLPA, after previously being made public.
In his discussions with players, Maxwell was also told that some footballers had avoided drug tests in the past by going home sick, and he said senior players were frustrated by behaviour of some teammates risking their chances of success.
"Different players told me, I don't know whether this has been tightened up, but in the past they’ve been able to get out of doing tests," he said.
"A lot of senior players out there are frustrated and worried because they also now know that if a teammate gets tested and gets a second strike they’ll get four weeks – so that could cost them success."