AFLPA boss Paul Marsh defends secrecy of drugs policy

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The AFL Players Association is adamant confidentiality has to be at the core of the illicit drugs policy because clubs have “freely admitted” they would use information about a player’s drug use against them.

AFLPA boss Paul Marsh confirmed reports that players who are identified to have potential issues with illicit drugs had “protection” put around them as part of the policy which could help them avoid hitting the three-strikes threshold, although he labelled the suggestions of 100 players being involved “a guess”.

But he also said a first strike was recorded against players when tests initially picked up drug use and that clubs were aware, through their doctors, who was the “most appropriate people to know”.

Revelations on Tuesday night about “off the books” tests being conducted to help players avoid match-day positives for illicit drugs will be investigated by Sports Integrity Australia after the AFL conceded it was part of the illicit drugs policy, which stands separately to the World Anti-Doping Code. .

The President of the AFL doctor’s association also defended the policy and said claims players were told to fake injuries after positive tests were “just not true”.

On Thursday Marsh, while conceding the illicitl drugs policy was under review and needed changes, said it had proven to be crucial in helping identify players with illicit drug problems.

But amid an outcry from clubs about not knowing who among their playing list might be having issues, Marsh was clear as to what that’s the case.

“The clubs do know. The club doctor knows, and in our view, that’s the most appropriate people to know,” Marsh said.

“We don’t discourage players to talk about this with coaches and their CEOs and their presidents if they want to.

“The players fear with this is that it will be used against them in contracting or whatever.

“I’ve had this discussion with at leats six clubs and we catch up with CEOs, coaches, footy managers and we put this to them. We ask them how would they use the information. How could help the player and would you use it against them ?

“Clubs have freely admitting that they would. You can’t unknow that information and when it comes down to the next contract, particularly if they are not a superstar player, it’s pretty hard not to use it against them.

“So is it safe for clubs to have that information ?”

Marsh said if the policy didn’t exist, clubs wouldn’t; have any information at all, and “compromises needed to be made” to ensure player health and wellbeing is looked after.

He said the AFLPA’s “starting point” was to hope no players would take illicit drugs, but conceded some “dabble” and others take drugs as part of wider mental health issues and some players had needed “extreme help”.

“I think it’s unrealistic to think we have an industry where no player is dabbling in this space,” he told SEN.

“There are some complex issues that sit around this.

“I have had players come to me and thank me for this policy and the role it has played in getting them back to a much better place mentally and away from illicit drugs.

“It is working, There are plenty of players who have an issue, and this is how we deal with it.

“We look after our people.”

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