AFL players have agreed to subject themselves to hair testing for illicit drugs until season’s end to help discover the extent of drug use.
A working group of players including Chris Judd and Jimmy Bartel, club representatives, medical experts and AFL officials met on Thursday to agree to the change, which was communicated to clubs on Friday.
Hair testing, which is more accurate than urine testing, has previously only been sanctioned by the league outside of season.
Just as with previous off-season positive tests, any players found to have used illicit drugs will not record a “strike” under the league’s illicit drugs policy (IDP).
A statement issued by the AFL late on Friday confirmed the move.
“The AFLPA has received the agreement of all players in the competition to being hair-tested over the next six months to better inform the knowledge base of the clubs, the AFL’s medical officers and the working group, which demonstrates the players commitment to reviewing the policy,” it read.
“The group re-stated their view that the wider AFL Player Group deserved ongoing credit for voluntarily agreeing to be part of the illicit drug policy, when not required to do so.”
AFL Players Association executive Ian Prendergast said the tests would be only for information-gathering purposes.
“We committed to this joint review of the IDP with the AFL, provided an evidence based approach is taken and player welfare remains at the heart of the policy, and this is another step in that process,” he said.
“Extending the hair testing, for statistical purposes only, assists us in gaining a better understanding of the level of use in-season.
“These results and any other relevant information we can gather will inform this review will help us determine what, if any, changes to the IDP are necessary.”
Under the AFL’s controversial “three strikes”policy, players can record two positive tests for “party” drugs before facing bans.