Fresh from wedging African refugees, the government moved on to its next wedge target yesterday…the AFL and its drugs policy.
The AFL, in its infinite wisdom (or that of its sponsors) began testing its players all year round for illegal (recreational) drugs – marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and so on – drugs that might be enjoyable to take but don’t actually help the player perform. This is separate and additional to the in-competition tests in the same manner as the Olympic sports, where any drug offence leads to a two-year ban. However, the intervention of the AFL Player’s Association, who were reluctant to agree to any out-of-competition testing for recreational drugs, saw a reasonably enlightened policy on what to do with that information. Players who return a positive out-of-competition test for recreational drugs aren’t automatically disciplined. A player’s first two positive tests aren’t disclosed to anyone – including the player’s club, much to many coaches’ annoyance – and result in counselling. Only after three positive tests are players disciplined. The federal government, smelling an opportunity to get “tough on drugs”, has repeatedly attempted to get the AFL to impose a more punitive regime, and their latest attempt goes after the AFL’s hip pocket.
The actual chances of anything being implemented before the election are minimal, of course, so it’s a pure political stunt. But what genius at the government’s media unit decided to pull such a stunt the week after the Grand Final(s), where most of the footballing communities have disappeared on holiday, and the punters are more interested in mourning Australia’s early exit from the Rugby World Cup?