Sunday, 23 May 2010

Party Drugs in Sport … The New Frontier for Moralists and Morons

The 2009 results from the AFL’s out-of-competition illicit drug testing scheme has shown that less than 1% of players has used recreational drugs compared to 4% in 2008. Although the total number of positive results was 14 in 2009, 2 more than 2008, it came from 348 more tests than the previous year. For those who favour drug testing players for non-performance enhancing drugs, it must be music to their ears. You would think so anyway but reducing drug use and the players welfare is not always the main motive behind a tough approach as we found out last week.


It's One Set Of Rules
By Rebecca Wilson
May 2010

IF I am arrested for drug use or possession, I will more than likely be charged, face a court hearing, a fine and a possible jail sentence. My work contract will dictate that I am sacked upon conviction and face a lengthy time without employment because of my crime.

If I am an AFL player, my first and second positive drug tests will be kept a secret from everyone except me, including my club boss. I will not face charges or public humiliation. I will get away with it and never face a set of consequences like the rest of the general public.

For a football organisation that prides itself on progressive policies, the AFL's persistence with its morally indefensible drugs policy is inexcusable. This week, the AFL's operations manager Adrian Anderson announced that 14 players had tested positive to illicit drugs in 2009. These included ice, ecstasy and cocaine. Anderson did not name a single player. Two players recorded second strikes but their identities have also been protected. It is only when a player records his third strike that he is named (this has never happened because strikes are cancelled from the player's records after four years). 

According to the AFL's chief medic, Dr Peter Harcourt, cocaine was the dominant drug of choice. Cocaine is viewed as both recreational and performance-enhancing. It triggers a two-year ban if it is detected on match day. But even though AFL administrators know it is becoming a big problem, they steadfastly refuse to name and shame the players who return positive tests.

The AFL defends its privacy policy because Anderson and co believe that a player deserves a chance to reform himself before he is publicly shamed. The mere fact that there are two players on a second strike in one year of testing should be enough for the AFL to realise that the molly-coddle approach does not work. Dr Harcourt admitted the two players were a concern but Anderson believes "only" 14 positive tests is a "phenomenal" result.

He cannot be serious. The law dictates that all cocaine use is illegal, whether it is a first offence or not. Police force those caught with the drug to go through the law courts and face the consequences.

At the AFL, even when a player is caught red-handed by the police, and tried through the legal system, he is quickly re-admitted to the fold. Geelong star Matthew Stokes was arrested for drug trafficking in February this year. His charge was later downgraded to possession of one gram of cocaine, which he says was "silly, stupid and senseless". That, it seems, is enough for the AFL. Stokes was convicted and will unbelievably take to the field for the Cats this weekend in Brisbane. He has been given a second chance that normal punters could only ever dream of. Cocaine, ice and ecstasy are a scourge. There is no good that can come from their use.

That is what we teach our kids, pleading with them to think twice before they try any form of illicit drugs. But a football body that claims to produce more role models than any other sport in Australia thumbs its nose at those general principles and parenting theories. The AFL is saying to young people that drugs are OK - that if you become an elite athlete you will be granted special favours that do not apply to anyone else. Furthermore, and most importantly, the policy also says that you can break the law three times before anyone will know your name.

Hawthorn boss Jeff Kennett believes club bosses should be told if their players return positive tests.

"It is my preference that as head of the family, if one of my children got into trouble I would like to know about it. Not to reprimand but to assist the child to pursue a drug-free lifestyle," Kennett said. He is mostly right. Reprimanding should be in there too. How players are expected to reform themselves after one positive test, without any help from their club or peers, is beyond me.

Fourteen players should have been outed by the AFL this week and reported to police. It is a conservative line but it is the only way anyone will ever get the message about drugs - they are illegal and very, very damaging to an athlete's health. When it comes to cocaine, ice and ecstasy, the AFL is living in a dreamland. Not a single gram of any of it is performance-enhancing in the long term.

Adrian Anderson's "phenomenal" result is a sham. There are 14 players out there who would be beside themselves with delight that they are allowed to exist in a cocoon that is completely devoid of reality checks and normal rules.


I must first declare that testing for recreational drugs in sport is wrong. Just as delving into a players sexual behaviour or their religious beliefs has nothing to do with sporting competition, neither does their use of alcohol or drugs. It might make sense if the off-field activities of sportspeople caused harm to others or threatened the security of the nation but whether someone simply choses to be intoxicated, is frankly their business. If it unfairly enhances their performance, then penalise them. If it will alter the outcome of a game, ban them. If taking a recreational drug causes terrorist activities, then send them to jail. If they are caught with drugs, then call the cops. But don’t demand a sportsperson meet someone else’s moral standards … especially off the field and out-of-season. More importantly, drug testing for recreational drugs has never provided any positive outcomes in any situation. Whether it’s drug testing school students, workers or sportspeople … it has never proved to be effective. If the pro-testing pundits had actually spent just 30 minutes researching the issue instead of promoting their own misguided opinion, then they might have noticed this fact. One classic fallout from drug testing is the shift away from soft drugs that linger in your system for weeks to other much more dangerous drugs that clear the blood system much quicker e.g. cocaine, heroin etc. I fail to see any benefits of a shift from pot to cocaine as the drug of choice for players.

Remember Little Johnny Howard having a go at the AFL and NRL for not introducing a Zero Tolerance drug policy? His demands were contrary to all advice from drug and medical experts and rightfully the AFL rejected his repeated "Tough on Drugs" rhetoric. But Howard wasn’t the only critic of the AFL’s drug policy. There was the usual assortment of anti-drug pundits, self righteous opinion writers and other ignorant, chest pounding protecters of public morals. The real experts hardly got a mention except when the AFL had to laboriously repeat their sound reasoning to those who disagreed with them. Move forward a few years and it appears that not much has changed. The AFL keep applying evidence based drug policies that put the welfare of the player first and self righteous twats keep opposing them.

What is the urgency to punish players who use recreational drugs? Party drugs and excessive alcohol do not help with a players performance so why is it necessary to name and shame them? Research shows that the behaviour of sports heroes doesn’t influence their young fans to take up alcohol or drugs. And there is a fundamental difference between voluntary testing and being caught with drugs. Those players caught by police with drugs are treated like anyone else and charged but what the critics failed to get through their thick heads is that there is no law against testing positive for drugs. It’s these obvious flaws in their argument that expose the critics as either having an ulterior motive or simply being too stupid and caught up in drug hysteria to understand the policy. 

From the outside it would appear the police are doing more to stop drug use in the AFL than the league itself. At least the police are seen to be doing something where the AFL actually conceals players it knows use drugs.

The critics of AFL’s drug policy sound remarkably like the critics of Harm Minimisation. The usual calls for tougher penalties, exaggerating the harms and classing drug use as evil whilst the highly additive and often more dangerous drug called alcohol is given the green light. Face it, these critics are basing their arguments purely on personal feelings or misinformation. Exactly the same conditions and mentality that drive the failed "War on Drugs”. Drug use is a medical and social issue and has nothing to do with playing a ball game like footy. Unfortunately there are too many loud mouth critics who have drank the "Tough on Drugs" Kool-Aid, pushing aside expert advice and historical reality for the popular but misguided, “lock ‘em” mentality. 

Steve Price, local Melbourne drunkard and morning DJ on MTR radio station recently teamed up with fellow moralist Andrew Bolt to discuss the AFL drug policy. This was never going to be a rational discussion and as expected, harm minimisation was put up as public enemy number one.

You could just see that coming down the corridor, couldn’t you … harm minimisation.

It was the usual chest beating and finger pointing from self opinionated fuckwits with very little research and distorted facts. Ironically, Bolt tripped up Price repeatedly for making a false claim which had Price pathetically trying to save some face. After repeating his assumption as fact several times, Bolt then buried Price with this cracker:

Because I looked it up and you didn’t … research will always save you Steve.

It was a clear reminder of how little depth that critics like Price really have. Steve Price is notorious for spectacular assumptions with no basis and his agenda is simply to cause outrage. It’s must be embarrassing when they get so caught up in their own importance, they forget what is fabricated and what is not.

Later that morning, Steve Price interviewed John Rogerson – CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation.  It was one of the worst prepared interviews I have ever heard. After John Rogerson repeated the fact that research and evidence clearly shows that naming and shaming doesn’t work, Price lost it. He tried to write off the AFLs statistics are not being reality based, cried out about sending the wrong message to children and then asked, what is the Australian Drug Foundation?

What the Australian Drug Foundation? … A marketing arm for drug dealers?

The issue that critics can’t seem to comprehend is that all the harsh penalties, strict enforcement and warnings in the world will not stop drug use. It never has and never will. Only this week, Ben Cousins explained how he got around being drug tested for so long. He simply adapted to the guidelines and worked out a way around them. In his whole career, he was never tested even once until his spectacular fall from grace. If we can’t stop prisoners from using drugs, what chance do we have with highly paid, very sociable young men? 

Cocaine is viewed as both recreational and performance-enhancing. It triggers a two-year ban if it is detected on match day. But even though AFL administrators know it is becoming a big problem, they steadfastly refuse to name and shame the players who return positive tests.
-- Rebecca Wilson - The Daily Telegraph

Ah … Rebecca Wilson. Wilson is well known for her often silly and inane articles but is probably better known for her rabid attacks on issues or people that irk her. Her recent article in The Daily Telegraph titled, It's One Set Of Rules is a classic example of how hysterical some people will get over the issue of drugs. From the opening sentence that confuses being arrested with voluntarily submitting a hair sample for drug testing, Wilson is on a witch-hunt. But it’s the bending of the facts and wild assumptions by WIlson that are really on show here as her reasons just wouldn’t make sense without them. Like indicating that for drug policies to be progressive, they must resort to the old drug war rhetoric which is the opposite of what progressive drug policies actually are. Or the bizarre reasoning that an AFL player should face public humiliation because a member of the public would suffer the same fate if caught using drugs. Except that nobody would give two shits if some stranger from another state was caught with a few pills or a tiny bag of grass/cocaine/speed etc. It’s this distortion between sports and moral imperatives that make Wilson and other critics look silly. Maybe if she was reporting on school football then drug use would have some relevance but the fact is, adult sportspeople have no obligation to be a moral compass for the public and any recreational drug use is their business. 

For a football organisation that prides itself on progressive policies, the AFL's persistence with its morally indefensible drugs policy is inexcusable. 
-- Rebecca Wilson - The Daily Telegraph

Surprisingly, the argument over role models for children gets very little mention in Wilson’s article. But no self respecting moralist would write an article like this without at least one cry of, “For God’s sake … won’t someone think of the children!!!”. 

That is what we teach our kids, pleading with them to think twice before they try any form of illicit drugs. But a football body that claims to produce more role models than any other sport in Australia thumbs its nose at those general principles and parenting theories. The AFL is saying to young people that drugs are OK - that if you become an elite athlete you will be granted special favours that do not apply to anyone else. Furthermore, and most importantly, the policy also says that you can break the law three times before anyone will know your name.
-- Rebecca Wilson - The Daily Telegraph

I am always curious why sportspeople are put forward by some as role models for children. Sure, it’s fine to admire their skills but allowing your kids to look up to a 20 something year old stranger is not my idea of positive parenting. I would be inclined to suggest my father to my kids for admiration or a well known philanthropist.

The main point of this article appears to be the treatment AFL players get for drug use compared to everyone else. The numerous mentions of drugs being illegal and the consequences of being caught by police is harped on again and again but WIlson misses one important point - police do not arrest you for having previously used drugs. The 14 positive results are from voluntary tests which have nothing to do with the police. Wilson writes, “Furthermore, and most importantly, the policy also says that you can break the law three times before anyone will know your name”. This is where any rational person should be asking themselves - is this really about what’s best for the game or how far Rebecca Wilson will go to push her own conservative ideology. 

Maybe this might shed some light.

Rebecca Wilson - How Does She Get A Gig Writing Opinion Pieces?
Forum started by ‘fairdinkum’

So I have read two Rebecca Wilson 'opinion' pieces lately and both have been, IMO, absolute garbage. Unfortunately, they don't seem to publish comments on her pieces on news.com.au (wonder why), so I thought I would discuss her rubbishness here.

What I basically want to know is this: How do flogs like Rebecca Wilson get a gig writing opinion pieces in widely-circulated newspapers?

Last week's article was about teenage drinking, and the perils thereof. Wilson basically tried to say that she is a model parent because she lets her son have a beer every now and then, but doesn't let him out of her sight to drink any more than the solitary beer (i.e. she drives him to and from friends' houses, no parties, etc.). Lots of trust she has for her kids, there (and how do you reckon the poor kid went at school the day after that piece went to print?). Anyway, it was all rather silly given that she is a multi-convicted drink-driver. Where does she get off lecturing others on responsible alcohol consumption? Kids might go around getting drunk at mates places but until they get behind the wheel their chances of doing somebody damage pales in comparison to what Wilson has done more than once.

This week she got on her high-horse regarding the group-sex 'issue' with which the media is so wound up at the moment. Her contention? She isn't a 'wowser', but consensual sex between more than two people is just plain 'shameful and sad'. Her justification? Well, her teenaged son reckons group-sex is weird, and if a teenaged boy reckons group-sex is weird, it must be wrong, right? She even argues that sex is wrong wherever the parties involved do not 'deeply care' for one another.



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2 comments:

jay said...

We had a piece run in the West Australian early in the AFL season singing the praises of Adam McPhee who had returned from the Bombers to Fremantle...my jaw nearly dropped upon reading this guy is involved in importing Taysers for the cops and armoured vehicles and other deadly weapons for the Army ... so kids the moral of the story is if you deal in err "Weapons of Mass Destructions" thats fine /who cares if a bunch of idiotic uber patriotic idiots gets to zap people in the street or kill kids in far away lands just dont take drugs on the weekend coz then youll really be "EVIL"...yep thats the state of morality in this retarded country at present

Anonymous said...

Before I start - I couldn't give a dam about AFL off the field. I am so over hearing about what players get up to, because, guess what.... THEY ARE ONLY FOOTY PLAYERS! At the same time, I have much sympathy for players such as Matthew Stokes ("trafficking" for 1 gram - how ridiculous & cruel for tarnishing his name with a "trafficking" charge!) & Ben Cousins (so what if he relapsed after experiencing the death of a close friend. Cut him some slack!)

Are we really surprised that AFL players use drugs just like many people in the rest of the community? I do not like this path we are going down. "Zero tolerance" advocates might criticize "Harm Minimisation", but they are both just token words on their own & give no insight into the real lives of people who use drugs.

Live in an area of "zero tolerance" measures and you will clearly see that "zero" has never been achieved AND "harm" is clearly not minimised. Upping the "zero tolerance" measures increases the harms.

People use drugs! Always have, always will.