AFL Players Association backs drugs policy

The AFL Players’ Association is confident the code’s current illicit drugs policy is working but says it will look at making it more of a deterrent.

Despite the latest revelations out of the Gold Coast Suns, with photographs circulating of midfielder Harley Bennell appearing to prepare drugs, AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh says statistics show the policy has made an impact.

“We have what we think is a successful illicit drugs policy in place,” Marsh said.

“It’s been in place for 10 years and we have access to the statistics and we’ve seen the the usage amongst players has decreased over that 10 years.

“Whilst there will be a lot of talk about changing the policy, we have committed to a review and are open to any changes to make policy better but the starting point is that the policy has been a positive for the AFL and the players.”

He said all players were being hair tested through this season which would provide a clearer picture.

Under the current three strikes system players and club doctors are notified of an initial positive test, with a fine suspended.

Marsh said the AFLPA was working hard in education, testing and counselling but conceded the policy’s use as a deterrent could be improved.

“Possibly the thing we need to focus on here is making sure the policy acts as more of deterrent than perhaps what it is; I think that’s going to be an area of great focus.”

Two staff members of the AFLPA were already on the Gold Coast following ex-player Karmichael Hunt’s allegations some former teammates had used illicit drugs, and were with Bennell today.

Marsh said the 20-year-old was going “through hell”.

He said the AFLPA asked the Herald Sun not to publish the photographs, which were allegedly taken in Tasmania just prior to the 2013 season.

“We tried to get them to not run the photos because we don’t see that it serves any purpose and it’s putting one of our members in a very, very difficult position.

“Let’s not forget we’re dealing with a human being here who is dealing with an action that he took two and a half years ago and is going through hell.”

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