Pert worried about illicit drug use in AFL

Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert is worried that AFL players are not changing their behaviour when it comes to illicit drugs.

Pert remains adamant it is the biggest issue in the game.

He was hopeful last August that the two-year doping suspensions for Magpies pair Lachlan Keeffe and Josh Thomas were a turning point for Australian sport.

But speaking at a pre-season media briefing on Wednesday morning, Pert said their bans for testing positive to the banned substance clenbuterol had not radically changed players’ attitudes to social drugs.

“I honestly thought that (the suspension of Keeffe and Thomas) would be something that would fundamentally change the attitude and behaviour of all sportspeople, not just AFL footballers,” Pert said.

“My view is that it probably, for a short period of time, had real shock value but I think, as a long-term solution to this high priority issue, it hasn’t fundamentally changed things.”

Keeffe and Thomas said the clenbuterol had probably been within an illicit drug they took.

The Magpies have retained them as rookie-listed players and they will be eligible to play again next year.

Well before their disastrous cases, Pert had been vocal about the problem of illicit drug use among players.

In November 2012, Pert spoke of “volcanic behaviour”.

Last year, the players’ illicit drugs policy was overhauled, with the three-strikes provision significantly changed to two.

The revised policy also aims to make it more difficult for players to manipulate the system.

Another provision has been increased hair testing, which is said to be more accurate.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he had a quick conversation with Pert earlier on Wednesday about his latest comments.

“I’m not going to discuss the confidential hair testing,” McLachlan said.

“All I will say is, from the AFL’s perspective, this is a challenging issue.

“We have strengthened our policies – we called it out at the start of last year.”

The illicit drugs policy, which needs the cooperation of the players, is separate to the compulsory anti-doping code.

It was testing under the anti-doping policy that led to the Keeffe and Thomas suspensions.

The anti-doping policy also is at the heart of the ongoing Essendon supplements debacle.

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