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Drugs, Lies and AFL Media

AFL Player’s Association CEO Paul Marsh has for the first time publicly conceded the illegitimate nature of the illicit drugs policy.

Marsh admitted, in an interview with AFL Media’s chief football journalist Damien Barrett, that the contentious policy is not really a “two-strike” policy and that players effectively have unlimited so-called “strikes” once subjected to a “program.”

This follows my reports earlier this month that the AFL’s illicit drugs policy “has never been practically used,” is “an open joke amongst AFL players” and that “the strikes are meaningless.”

However, Paul Marsh’s comments are still significant, as it is the first time that an AFL or AFLPA official has spoken out against the policy on record. Kudos to him for having the honesty and integrity to do so, but that does not mean we are going to overlook other falsehoods.

Marsh rejected that there was an “understanding” between the players that there will never be a public naming of a player under the AFL’s current approach to illicit drugs. “No, absolutely not the case, absolutely not the case,” Marsh told AFL Media’s In the Game podcast. That is an emphatic denial. But clearly that understanding exists.

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It is difficult to find a feasible situation in which the AFL would publicly name a player they have caught taking illicit drugs. That is because they never will, despite certainly having plenty of opportunities to do so in the past. The policy (in name only) has supposedly existed for fifteen years. Players have surely run out of strikes in that time. But unless they have been caught by the media or the police, nothing has happened. In fact, when players have been caught externally, the punishments the AFL imposes upon them have never fit the penalties outlined in the policy.

Marsh stated that players do receive a “strike” if the discussions (rather negotiations?) suggest that the behaviour was simply a “one-off” incident. Of course, one “strike” does not carry any public revelation or suspension, or any form of significant punishment at all.

Marsh revealed that players do not receive a strike and are instead referred to medical program if they show a “consistent pattern” (ie. multiple instances) of illicit drug use. Therefore, they are not named. So, for all intents and purposes it is impossible for a player to record two strikes and hence, be named (despite the official policy stating that players who record two strikes will be named and suspended). If that is not an understanding that no players will be named – what is?

When challenged by Barrett, on the point that there clearly is not a two-strike policy, Marsh proclaimed, “I don’t care what we call it… if you want to call it something else, call it something else.”

Oh I will! “PR fabrication” seems most apt. So, thanks for the invitation, Paul. We are going to call it what it is from now on, because the fans do not deserve to be treated for fools,. They deserve honesty.

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But Marsh insists he has had nothing to do with the false messaging surrounding this PR fabrication as he critiscied the public and the media for their lack of knowledge on the issue. Marsh stated, “I don’t even know where it started the whole two strikes versus three strikes. I don’t even know where that came from.”

Hmmm, maybe it was from… THE AFL! That is what the public is told is the actual policy by the people who run the game! Clearly, what we are being told is so far removed from reality, that those inside the tent have lost complete touch with it.

The fans constantly hear this nonsense about the strike system, so please do not even think about blaming them for still having faith and trust in those running the league. All they have to do is rewind the podcast to two minutes earlier to hear, the very same Paul Marsh say, “it’s a two-strike policy now, it used to be three. We have made changes to it.”

Paul Marsh continued to disagree with Paul Marsh, and again blamed the fans and media, lamenting, “I don’t know why we have this fascination with wanting to catch and out and penalise.” It’s amazing that he doesn’t know why, really. The fascination comes because that’s what the public are told the rules actually are!

The AFL and AFLPA cannot continue to lie about this and blame the public for believing the lie. That is akin to stabbing someone in the back and blaming them for bleeding on the carpet.

You may not care about the issue of drugs, but you, the fans, should care about the lies.


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