‘Strongest drugs code in sport’: AFL set to revamp three-strikes policy amid new ‘secret immunity’ bombshell


The AFL secret drugs test scandal has been rocked with further shocking allegations claiming up to 100 players have been given ‘secret immunity’ from the league’s three-strikes illicit drugs policy.

Federal MP Andrew Wilkie revealed the AFL and club doctors’ practice of having players who registered a positive test in the days before matches fake an injury to be withdrawn from the team and avoid risking being caught by Sports Integrity Australia.

The latest series of allegations have seen anonymous club medical insiders tell the Herald Sun that players identified as cocaine users in a so-called ‘medical model’, to prevent them from being hit with strikes under AFL policy.

Normally, a player registering a positive drugs test outside match day for the first time would be fined $5000 and undergo mandatory counselling, while a second strike would see them name and receive a four-match suspension. A third strike would result in a 12-match ban.

League CEO Andrew Dillon admitted to the strategy being implemented across the league on Wednesday, but claimed it was ‘a very small handful of players’ circumventing the policy.

However, an insider told the Herald Sun that ‘even the cleanest clubs would have about five players on this so-called rehabilitation program.

“Some would have far more. Across 18 clubs we are talking maybe 100 players,” the insider said.

The scandal is set to bring about significant changes to the three-strikes policy, which has come in for a barrage of criticism over the years for being too lenient to players testing positive.

Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said on Nine’s Footy Classified its replacement would be a ‘punitive code’.

“Enough is enough,” he said.

“They are going to bring in a punitive code.”

The panel reacts to the bombshell drug allegations engulfing the AFL, as Eddie McGuire details the big changes coming to the league’s illicit drug code. #9FootyClassified | Nine & 9Now ????️ pic.twitter.com/kgf8EQkBKa

— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) March 27, 2024

“They [the AFL] are going to bring in a punitive code… I believe that this will be done by June this year, and I think it’ll come in next year.

“They’ll have to get everybody signed off on it, but there’s far less sense of humour about looking after the players.

“They’ll still have what was WADA, so Sports Integrity Australia, doing the match-day testing for everything, including performance-enhancing… this will actually be the strongest drug code, probably, in sport.”

Under the new code, according to McGuire, the league will recommend a six-match suspension for a first drugs offence in an attempt to ‘normalise’ the strictness of the policy.

“We’re nominating six weeks – it might be four weeks,” he said.

“They’re going to normalise it, if you like – ‘Lloyd out – hamstring, Joe Blow out – drugs.”

McGuire also dismissed suggestions such a revelation could impact named players’ mental health, saying it was time to put ‘grown-up pants on’.

“Drugs are a problem, mental health issues are a problem. They’re not stigmas anymore, you can work through it.”

McGuire cited the risk of players being ‘blackmailed’ under the current policy, noting players have only received suspensions from the AFL for illicit drug use if caught doing it, as was the case with former Collingwood and now Hawthorn forward Jack Ginnivan and Western Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith.

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“You get rubbed out for four weeks if somebody takes a photo of you, but you get nothing if you self-report,” he said.

“The opportunity to blackmail a player if you take a photo of them over the summer… you are dealing with organised crime.

“It’s far better for a player to get six weeks and have to face mum and dad that they’ve taken drugs.”

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