AFL’s chief medico backs drugs policy

The AFL’s chief medical officer thinks the league’s illicit drugs policy has copped a bad rap.

The AFL has grappled with the issue of illicit drug use in recent years, with the problem put under the spotlight by recent explosive revelations made by former Gold Coast player Karmichael Hunt that plunged the Suns into crisis.

The AFL’s three-strike illicit drug policy is undergoing a major review amid criticism that it’s too soft on drug use.

But, on Monday, chief medical officer Dr Peter Harcourt, who administers the policy, leapt to its defence.

“Clearly, it’s a very good policy – it’s worked. It’s been very effective at changing the behaviours of players,” Harcourt said.

“But usually when it’s talked about, it’s in negative terms.

“This is an incredibly difficult element of our community – managing illicit substances – no one’s got it right.

“I guess from my perspective, I get a bit frustrated because this has impacted a lot of young men’s lives and changed their behaviour (but) no one’s given it the credit for that.”

Harcourt said everything was on the table in the review of the model, which has a personal health and welfare focus that protects the confidentiality of players who record first and second strikes.

The clause whereby a player can self-report an instance of illicit drug use and avoid a strike has been cited as a major flaw.

Harcourt played down its significance, but added it hadn’t helped the league sell the virtues of its illicit drugs code, which is separate from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s policy governing the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“On the issue of self-reporting, I don’t think there’s actually been as much problems with it – I haven’t seen it and obviously they self-report to me,” he said.

“I haven’t seen the extent of the problem that’s sometimes been reported but it creates reputational issues for the policy itself, so I think it is on the table.

“(But) there are much more important elements to the policy than that particular (clause).”

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