Max Gawn ahead of Melbourne's semi-final against Carlton in 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE captain Max Gawn says the latest drug allegations against forward Joel Smith are "quite shocking" but insists his club does not have a problem with illicit substances.

Smith has been provisionally suspended since mid-October after he returned a positive in-competition test for cocaine last year. On Tuesday, Sport Integrity Australia asserted three anti-doping violations for trafficking or attempted trafficking of cocaine against him. He also faces an additional rule violation for possession of cocaine on September 9, 2022.

Gawn conceded "there are issues" at his club, but was strident that there is not a culture of drug taking amongst the playing group.

"All I can say is for 16 years I've been getting drug tested, for 10 years I have been getting hair tested ... and I have never been told that our club has a drug culture," Gawn said.

"Until I get told that we have an issue or I can see an issue with my own eyes, I can only go off face value.

"I like to think I've got a good grasp on our group. I'm incredibly bullish that we've got the right culture. We're always working on it.

"But in 10 years no one has told me that we have a drug culture and I'm going to go by that.

"I'm not hiding, there are issues and we have to make sure we get that right. But there's going to be issues every year whether you guys (the media) write about it or not."


The skipper insisted he's the right man to lead the club forward, saying, "It's tough but I wouldn't put my hand up if I didn't want a challenge".

Gawn did not comment directly on Smith's situation given the ongoing investigation, saying only he had been in touch with the 27-year-old and would continue to support him.

"I'm there for Joel to support because he's still a friend," he said.

The latest assertions against Smith come after a turbulent off-season at the Demons surrounding star midfielder Clayton Oliver.

Joel Smith celebrates a goal during Melbourne's qualifying final against Collingwood on September 7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Having only return to team training last month, Oliver impressed in a match simulation against Richmond on Sunday and is on track to play Melbourne's season opener against Sydney on March 7.

"I'm incredibly inspired by what Clarry's doing right now," Gawn said.

"He's a guy who's had a lot of trouble ... and most of it his own accord. What he is doing now is working to become the best version of himself for his family, friends and teammates.

"I'm starting to be inspired by the Clayton Oliver story.

"He still lets me down from time to time but we're still incredibly close. I hope we've got him on the right path and I'm excited for what he can bring this year."

Clayton Oliver, Max Gawn and Christian Petracca at Melbourne training in May, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Gawn added the broad media coverage surrounding Smith made the issue difficult to ignore for the playing group and that the club's leadership group may have to address it when they return from a short break later this week.

"Our players will look at it so we might have to address it," he said.

"But I think Gen Z, those guys will forget about it tomorrow. So they'll be fine. We might have to address. But we're bullish about what we can do this year."

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon said it was not up to the League to refer the assertions made against Smith to the police.

"The investigation is led by (Sport Integrity Australia) and the information they have, it's up to them what they do with that. It's not a call for the AFL," he said.

Dillon also backed the Demons' leadership of Gawn and CEO Gary Pert and said the AFL would continue to educate players about the dangers of illicit drugs.

Gary Pert during a Melbourne press conference at the MCG on January 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's always disappointing when there's a breach," he said. "There's assertions that have been made ... but that's one player and I think it'll be premature to say anything more than that.

"(Melbourne) do have things to work on but they're a very experienced club led by an experienced CEO and a great captain.

"What we continue to do ... is provide education and training for players about the dangers involved. We'll continue to do that ... and that's the key philosophy.

"The use of illicit drugs is a societal issue and we don't shy away from that."

Meanwhile, Dillon said while the League's wellbeing team had been working closely with the Demons around Oliver, the AFL does not have to tick off his return to play and his comeback date will be determined only by the player and his club.