Eddie McGuire has called on the AFL to implement “hard and fast” rules in its drug policy, fearing that the current stipulations open players up to being blackmailed.
The issue of the league’s drug policy not being strong enough has once again come to the fore in recent weeks in the wake of Western Bulldogs star Bailey Smith‘s ban.
Smith was handed a two-match ban by the league for conduct unbecoming after images from the off-season of him holding a bag of white powder surfaced on social media.
The current drug policy sees a three-strike rule being implemented. Players receive a suspended $5000 fine for a first strike, a four-match ban and $5000 fine for a second strike, and a 12-month ban and a $10,000 fine for a third strike.
McGuire believes the current three-strike policy allows for too many loopholes which can then get the players in trouble at a later date, as Smith was.
“He gets two weeks because someone took a photo of him, as opposed to let’s say up to a quarter of the AFL population who at some stage have gone to the doctors and said, ‘Oh I’ve had a bad night’ (after taking illicit drugs),” he told Nine’s Footy Classified.
“What happens if someone comes up with a photo on grand final week that happened a year ago?
“I know it’s conduct unbecoming, but he’s not getting done for taking drugs, he’s getting done for having some slimebag leak a photo of him.
“This is the big issue about illicit drugs, the opportunity for nefarious people to blackmail players. It’s always been the big issue, going right back to the 2010s when Collingwood came out and talked about the volcanic situation. The drug rules were being absolutely laughed at by the players.
“The big issue – and the Australian Crime Commission were looking at this – was how are players going to get blackmailed into match-fixing because of their situation with illicit drugs. That’s always been the big issue.”
Former AFL coach Ross Lyon noted that players who get a first strike commonly get “diverted” into a wellbeing and rehabilitation process, thus allowing them to avoid a second strike, with McGuire unimpressed.
“I hate the fact that every person in the AFL that says they’ve got a mental health issue, and it’s a legitimate one, is now being targeted as if they’re using it as an excuse for drug testing,” he said.
“This acceptance now that everybody does drugs has gone too far the other way.
“The best way to not get a drug problem that leads to mental health issues and exacerbates itself 10 years later when you’re out of the system, which we’ve seen in recent times, is to not start doing drugs.
“Players need to be able to say, ‘I can’t because I’m going to be tested tomorrow’.”