Madonna King: AFL’s clandestine drug testing a stain on the game

No effort to rationalise the secret drug testing problem could possibly pass the pub test, writes Madonna King.

No effort to rationalise the secret drug testing problem could possibly pass the pub test, writes Madonna King. Photo: Getty

A litany of scandals and a lack of transparency have stolen the trust we’ve placed in big organisations for decades.

The big banks, for example, and how they dealt with grieving families and others who were unable to put food on the table. Big business, more generally, and their oft-arrogance towards profiteering, ethics and public accountability.

Our churches, with the immoral, criminal and covert behaviour that will remain a stain in our history books indefinitely.

Health care, with its high cost, over-servicing and refusal to acknowledge the importance of rural and regional populations’ access to good care.

The list goes on. Parliament. Media. Trade unions. Education. Sport.

And if we needed another example, under the heading of sport, AFL chief Andrew Dillon has provided a stunning own goal.

In what land of accountability and trust is it right to knowingly allow players with illicit substances in their systems to avoid detection?

This is gaming the system. Protecting brands at the expense of fans. And it is wrong on every conceivable level.

Firstly, this clandestine operation – at least on the surface – has given our elite players free rein to take drugs they know are wrong, without penalty.

What part of that sentence can Dillon defend?

Secondly, where is the fairness in a competition adored by fans across the nation, but where players fake injuries and withdraw from games to avoid drug testing?

Does Dillon genuinely believe that patrons would support that view?

Thirdly, none of Dillon’s efforts to rationalise the secret drug testing problem could possibly pass the pub test.

“There is difference between what the public is interested in, and what is in the public interest,’’ Dillon says.

Is that right? Is he also the arbiter of what individual fans are interested in?

For one, I’m interested in knowing whether any of the players on the team I support – or indeed those teams I don’t support – is a drug-taker.

I’m interested in knowing whether someone is sitting out because they have a torn meniscus or whether they’ve had a big night out.

And I deplore the idea that suspicion could fall over a good player, who is simply genuinely injured.

Surely it’s not just me and non-drug-taking players; the clubs, the game and the public are best served knowing all of this too.

Perhaps one team won the grand final on the back of another team losing a player – to drug use?

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA), and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should take a stronger stance here.

We need to know the reach of, and evidence behind, every word uttered in Parliament by independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Dillon says that only a small number of players have not attended training or played in matches through illicit drug use – and it was not widespread among AFL and AFLW players.

But how do we know that? These revelations only surfaced through Wilkie’s efforts, which were broadcast in Parliament and based on accusations levelled by former Melbourne president Glen Bartlett, ex-club doctor Zeeshan Arain and former player Shaun Smith.

Dillon has urged Wilkie to hand over any documents and to be open with the SIA in its analysis of the matter.

Dillon should do the same.

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