The Courier-Mail

Rise in drug positives fuels case for two-strike policy

- JON RALPH ANDREW HAMILTON

THE AFL’s overhaul of its illicit drugs code starts on Thursday with players having recorded an increase in positives from last summer’s hairtestin­g.

Club chiefs armed with evidence of that spike in positives continue to push for a twostrikes drug policy for 2016.

It is believed some clubs were warned of alarming numbers of positive hair tests among their players, while others have almost no problem in the off-season.

Of the 18 clubs, 15 had a player report a positive hair test over the summer but there is a huge fluctuatio­n between the results at clubs.

An overall rise in positive hair tests puts the league average at around 10 per cent of positive tests from over 400 players tested when they return from holidays.

Each club has a minimum LIONS CEO Greg Swann says the AFL has no choice but to reduce interchang­es to slow the game down after adding a broken jaw to James Aish to an injury list that is well beyond crisis point.

Aish, skipper Tom Rockliff (ribs) and Suns forward Jack Martin (hamstring) all face a month on the sidelines after another weekend of carnage for Queensland’s two clubs.

The news could get worse with the Lions waiting on results of scans for Claye Beams who is facing an extended time-out with a knee injury and Daniel Rich who has a sore hip.

Even with Lions pair Pearce Hanley and Jack Redden and Sun Nick Malceski expected to return in the coming weeks, each game brings new casualties for both clubs.

Swann said the competitio­n could not sustain the alarming injury toll and something had to be done to slow the game down.

The ability to keep players fresh meant there was increased numbers around contests and they all moved at full pace which was making the collisions harder than ever.

“At the moment about 20 per cent of everyone’s list across the competitio­n is injured and up here it is a lot worse, that is a lot and the game itself has to ask, why is that happening?,” Swann said. “I think there will be no choice but to reduce the interchang­e.’’

Aish rivalled of 20 players tested and some pay for their entire lists of more than 40 to be tested as a disincenti­ve for off-season drug taking.

The figure is far less than the proportion of positive hair tests for drugs in the general community, which studies put at 30 to 40 per cent.

But the number of positive hair tests – 40 or more across the competitio­n – is still an alarming number for some clubs. An announceme­nt on a

Rockliff’s gutsy effort to play all but 10 minutes with three busted ribs by carrying a broken jaw through the entire second half.

“He played with it, it is a good effort from the kid,’’ Swann said.

Brisbane started the season without Pearce Hanley (hip) while the Suns were missing Charlie Dixon (foot) and Jaeger O’Meara (knee) and things have gone steadily downhill from there.

Brisbane have won two games and the Suns just one, against the Lions, as the injuries have struck the very best players from both clubs.

Between them the injured players have collected four premiershi­ps, two Brownlow medals, 10 All Australian selections, eight club champion awards and a Rising Star – even though Suns skipper Gary Ablett is responsibl­e for at least half of the accolades himself.

The crisis prompted The Courier-Mail to pick an All Star team of players who have missed at least two games from injury or those who were hurt in the past two weeks and are expected to miss multiple matches. player-backed trial of in-season hair testing – for data purposes only – is expected in coming days and will help frame the new policy.

Depending on the scope of the trial, the new policy might not be ready by the league’s stated timeline of the end of August.

The AFL illicit drugs working group meets on Thursday and consists of five AFL club chief executives, the AFLPA, AFL officials Mark Evans and Andrew Dillon, and the AFL’s medical experts.

Some clubs continue to push for year-round hair-testing which would result in positive strikes, believing it would discourage players who might otherwise run the gauntlet.

Players who record a positive hair test, which captures three months of drug data, must have counsellin­g from AFL medical staff. They are then target-tested during the following season.

 ??  ?? BATTLE STATIONS: Injured Lions Daniel Rich, James Aish, Claye Beams, and captain Tom Rockliff;
and (main picture) dejected Sun Jack Martin
sits on the bench after injuring his hamstring at
the weekend. Main picture: Getty Images
BATTLE STATIONS: Injured Lions Daniel Rich, James Aish, Claye Beams, and captain Tom Rockliff; and (main picture) dejected Sun Jack Martin sits on the bench after injuring his hamstring at the weekend. Main picture: Getty Images

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