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Hair testing positive results: AFL pleads for patience, won't release more information

25 March 2016 2:37 AM
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Excerpts from 3AW host Neil Mitchell's extraordinary interview AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh amid allegations a quarter of Collingwood's list failed drug tests.

UPDATE: The AFL has rejected Jeff Kennett's call for all illicit drugs results from the summer hair testing of players to be released, declaring the revamped policy must be given time to breathe.

One club was also told it had three players test positive, prompting more calls for a tougher stance to be adopted as part of collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the AFL and players this year.

Hair tests do not count as a positive strike, and are only used for research purposes.

As clubs call for stricter penalties, AFL operations manager Mark Evans said on Friday that the upgraded policy, released in October, gave the code unprecedented information and a stronger capacity to intervene and penalise players.

"This is the first year of the policy's operation and I ask that the new policy be given a chance to be in operation and measured for its impact before we demand new changes," Evans said.

"The use of illicit drugs affects all sections of society, including AFL players, but testing results continue to indicate levels of use below the general public.

"The AFL has informed the clubs regarding the hair testing over the holidays but we will not make these public.

AFL Players Association chief Paul Marsh was also adamant the new policy needed to be given time before it could be judged.

Kennett had claimed that as the Magpies' had been linked to a spike in results - numbers were up across the board over summer - it was time for all results to be released.

"You can't name one club and one club only. The AFL today is going to have to announce all the clubs that have been named and all those, not the individual players, but the number of strikes against players and then the AFL is going to have to ask themselves again, which is something I raised years ago when I was president of Hawthorn, their drug policy is totally out of kilter with public expectation," Kennett said.

"It's not about the players' right. No-one forces a player to play AFL. The rules should be quite clear - if the player breaches that rule, then they should be prohibited from playing. This is not only a test of players, this is actually a test of the AFL at the start of their season."

While players who test positive to out-of-season hair testing escape an official strike, players who twice record high levels of illicit drugs in hair testing will be target tested.

"The apparent double standards the AFL has - you can't say you are anti-drugs, and I understand the difference between performance enhancing and those that are not - but you can't have a policy that is seen to be hypocritical," Kennett told Channel Seven's Sunrise.

"You either have got to have a policy or you have no policy. The AFL has for years now failed to actually demonstrate consistency in their approach to drugs."

Only club doctors are informed of the names of players who have tested positive.

Port Adelaide chairman David Koch said clubs would continue to push for a tougher stance.

"There is an issue because clubs can't do much because there is an agreement with the players association, won't let you be involved," Koch said.

"Now when the new CBA comes up, collective bargaining agreement for players, I think there will be, well, I know, there will be enormous pressure on the AFLPA to say - if you guys want pay rises, well, then, you have got to let us take more control of this illicit drug issue."

Magpies chief executive Gary Pert again put the issue on the agenda when this month he said player attitudes had not improved since he claimed three year's ago some were guilty of "volcanic behaviour" during their off-season break.

Marsh responded at the time by declaring the drugs policy would not be reopened.

Under the revised policy announced in October, players receive a $5000 suspended fine for their first strike during the season proper but remain anonymous while receiving counselling and target testing.

A player will be named publicly, fined and suspended for four matches if he records a second strike. A third strike will prompt a 12-match suspension. Hair testing is conducted year round.

Players are also allowed one self-report, where they can escape a strike, but only if they have not previously been identified under the policy.


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