LACHLAN Keeffe and Josh Thomas' two-year bans for taking a performance-enhancing drug should sound a warning to other Australian athletes that "the game has changed", Collingwood chief Gary Pert says.
Keeffe and Thomas have accepted suspensions after testing positive to clenbuterol, which they believe was laced within an illicit drug they took on a night out in February.
The Pies pair will be delisted by the club, fined about $50,000 each from withheld player payments and are banned from the AFL until 2017.
Pert said the events show that the line is now blurred between illicit and performance-enhancing substances, with athletes running the risk of ruining their careers by taking recreational drugs.
"Anyone in our game who chooses to consume illicit drugs must also from now on accept that they may also be consuming a performance-enhancing drug," Pert said on Monday.
"The events that have brought us here today I believe amount to a turning point in our code, and more broadly for Australian sport.
"The decision to take an illicit drug, which up until now would have held no consequences in some sports and in the AFL seen an anonymous strike recorded, could now result in a major sanction or the end of your career.
"The game has changed for athletes as of today."
Pert reiterated calls for an overhaul of the AFL's Illicit Drugs Policy, which only informs a club doctor after a player tests positive for the first time.
Pert, who in 2012 labelled some players' off-season illicit drug behaviour as "volcanic", is part of a working group examining how to improve the policy and said change was necessary so clubs could help to prevent problems, rather than solve them.
He said the Pies believed more accountability and harsher consequences for players who tested positive were needed to deter them from taking illicit drugs.
Pert wanted players, when faced with using the possibility of using illicit drugs, to realise there was much at stake and the consequences were severe.
"I have very strong views on it, because when I talked about volcanic behaviour (it) was about the fact that these young men lead a very, very disciplined life for the majority of the year.
"When the discipline isn't in place, like in the off-season or the pre-season or when we have particular breaks, it shows us in the testing that that's when the majority of positive tests and bad decision-making occurs.
"I believe it's the area we should target when we look for problems, because I don't want to be sitting here again."
The AFL Players' Association said in a statement the 'immense' penalties handed to Keeffe and Thomas again illustrated the dangers illicit drugs presented to professional athletes.
"By their nature, illicit drugs are not subject to the checks and balances that regulated supplements are – it is impossible to know what they contain," AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh said.
"They may contain dangerous substances and they may also contain substances prohibited by the WADA Code.
"We hope the positive from this issue is that any athlete considering taking illicit drugs in the future thinks about the risks to his or her career and decides not to do so."
Marsh said the AFLPA remained committed to a review of the AFL's illicit drugs policy, but stressed that the existing policy had deterred players from drug use, despite views to the contrary.