Assessment of allegations of misconduct of AFL's Illicit Drugs Policy

  • Media Statement

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) has completed an assessment of statements referenced in Parliament by Mr Andrew Wilkie MP alleging the AFL were conducting ‘secret’ and ‘off the books’ drug testing of players to subvert the anti-doping process.

The assessment, conducted by SIA, focused on statements provided to SIA by Mr Wilkie and centered on claims made within the statements that the AFL sanctioned an illicit drug testing regime that was detrimental to players and potentially breaching the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).

Sport Integrity Australia assessment of allegations regarding the AFL Illicit Drugs Policy [PDF 2.3MB]

SIA recognises relevant parties participating in the assessment were open and transparent and had a collective intent to ensure the future of the game was safe and maintained the highest levels of integrity. The assessment identified a number of key issues relevant to all sport in Australia particularly around addressing the threat posed by criminal infiltration of sport when players are exposed to illicit drug use.

Findings:

  • The assessment made a range of key recommendations, but significantly identified there were no breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code through any Anti-Doping Rule Violation by AFL players or support personnel or that injuries were feigned to cover up for positive drug testing during the week by the AFL or club doctors.
  • Regarding the AFL's obligations as a signatory to the WADC, the assessment noted the responsibilities required of the AFL around anti-doping education under the Code and acknowledges that the AFL has a current Anti-Doping Education Plan. However, SIA did identify the need for the AFL to enhance their education to all levels of the game and the agency has agreed to work with the AFL on their program.
  • SIA noted the AFL Illicit Drug Policy operates independently from the National Anti-Doping Scheme and recognises, while both ultimately aim to protect health and to promote integrity in sport, they operate under separate objectives and distinct frameworks. SIA concluded that there were no irreconcilable inconsistencies between the AFL’s Illicit Drugs Policy and the National Anti-Doping Scheme, but recommended the AFL formalise a framework to maximise opportunities arising from the implementation of both policies. The confidential nature of the medical model (between doctor and player) prevented the AFL from sharing information publicly, thus creating a degree of suspicion.

Through the assessment, SIA identified integrity threats posed by the purchase of illicit drugs by players and noted this is an issue relevant to all sport in Australia. SIA noted the long-established AFL Integrity Unit and the fact the AFL is one of the few sports to implement an Illicit Drug Policy. SIA recommends the continued expansion of the AFL’s intelligence capability to manage emerging threats.

The SIA assessment makes 8 key recommendations which the agency believes will enhance the development of a new Illicit Drug Policy and offer greater integrity protection for the AFL, AFL clubs, players, and support personnel.

Key recommendations:

  • the need for a level of independent oversight of the Illicit Drugs Policy
  • guidelines for AFL sanctioned illicit drugs testing within the policy
  • continued expansion of the intelligence capability in the AFL’s integrity unit
  • expand and promote the AFL anonymous tip off portal
  • testing of AFLW players in the new policy
  • developing a strategy for addressing illicit drug use by non-players
  • greater education on the Illicit Drugs Policy and anti-doping policy
  • continuing to expand the AFL’s Education Program.

Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe said the issue of illicit drug use presented a significant challenge to Australian sport, not just the AFL.

“All Australian sport has reached a crossroad in dealing with illicit drug use, player mental health and wellbeing and criminal infiltration of sport. Significant intervention is required immediately to address the illicit drug culture in sport and the increasing and unacceptable risks posed to players, officials, clubs, and sporting codes,” Mr Sharpe said.

"Sport Integrity Australia, along with several partner organisations, have identified evidence across Australian sports of clear dangers of criminals influencing sport through the supply of illicit drugs, including by preying on athletes or support staff to access inside information.

"Without significant cultural intervention to address the illicit drug culture in all sports, Sport Integrity Australia is concerned about the dire impacts to player's health and wellbeing, and the potential to bring a code or team into disrepute through integrity threats.”

Mr Sharpe said the AFL could be a leader in this space.

He said the agency will continue to bolster engagement with the AFL and wider sporting community to improve our awareness of the threat environment, including through the use of illicit drugs.