On Thursday, the AFL leadership announced that they would not comply with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) guidelines for testing athletes. Apparently, their own regime of drug testing is strict enough. The reality is, the AFL is bound by an agreement with the AFL Players Association to allow those players to maintain a drug-fuelled lifestyle. As Jimi "Purple Haze" Herd puts it:
"You always know that you are playing in a competition that is drug-free so I would support the AFL in their decision," he said.
"I think they've um obviously there's some smart people there, they've obviously thought about it.
"They're going to lose some money with regard to funding so they haven't made the decision lightly." (ABC Sport, 1/7/05)
Right ... so the AFL is drug-free
... and the paying public should accept the infallible wisdom of the AFL executive
... uh, what are you smokin', Jimi? 'Scuze me, while I kiss the sky ...
Of course, the more interesting issue is the money: the AFL has turned down about half a million bucks
to roll its own dope policy. (You can tell an organisation is being pressed hard when it declines a free on-going handout from the taxpayers!) With around 400 professional footy players, it works out the AFL is - in effect - paying about $12,000 per player per year to make it easier for them take drugs. However, in terms of player income, this is well under 5% of the average and so is of little real consequence. But hey, free money is still free money, so it signals a much larger problem remains. As the leading doping bureaucrats put it:
WADA director-general David Howman said he does not agree with the AFL's response to cannabis use.
"If they've got such a big problem that they have to run a separate program to counsel all of those who are playing the game to be off illicit drugs, then I think they've got a big problem," he said.
"Maybe they should be addressing that in a more aggressive and more positive approach." (ABC Sport, 1/7/05)
As I've mentioned before
, I don't object to people smoking dope or (generally) taking a range of drugs - it's part of my libertarian outlook. But I don't think they should be doing so if a) they can't handle it and it triggers violence and other crime, b) it reduces their performance for which they are being paid hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. The former is hurting others through rapes, bashings and thefts; the latter is effectively stealing from members, supporters and the audience. Being a druggie and being an elite athlete are mutually exclusive endeavours. The AFL should force people to choose.
But of course, the AFL is a unionised industry and these million dollar prima donnas
demand the right to have their space cake and eat it. It's a PR nightmare: this decision is a cave-in to a union (very unpopular under the present political regime), starves the AFL of funds, could be seen to condone drug-taking by AFL stars (who are heroes to our children), damages long-term player well-being, exposes the rest of us to elevated risks of drug-induced AFL player violence and
results in the fans paying for sub-standard footy matches! How could they possibly justify this rip-off?
The AFL Players' Association said it was concerned the move would jeopardise grassroots sporting programs run by the League.(ABC Sport, 1/7/05)
Yes, that's right, they did use the word "grassroots" in defending a cannabis-rife sporting league. (I swear, sometimes these bozos just write their own material.) But get past the gaffe and think about what is being claimed here: if AFL players are under more scrutiny about their dope habits, then their community programs will become less successful
. How exactly does that work?
Down at the local AusKick clinic ...
"OK, kids, gather 'round. Now, I know that last time I promised we'd pass the bong around and think of funny things that rhyme with 'marijuana' but ... well, management said we're off the pot. So I thought I'd show you how to do a drop punt instead." (Sound of kids groaning, shuffling off the field.)
Overheard in an office at AFL HQ ...
"Yeah, Steve, I've rung today to tell you that you've been accepted into the draft. Yep, that's right, you'll be playing AFL next season! What's that? Ah, about $80 grand in the first year ... yeah, no, you'll be on $200K by the time you're 19, for sure. But the thing is - you'll have to give up dope ... that's right, no more choofin'. (click) Hello? Hello?"
On reflection, maybe I've misread the market. Maybe there is a demand for watching a bunch of drug-addled athletes chase a footy around the field. Heaven knows, I was one of 22,000 people
to attend the Sacred Heart Mission Community Cup
in St. Kilda last Sunday, and had a blast. (For those not in the know, this is an annual charity comp between a community radio station and a pub specialising in live music. Now, I don't want to upset anyone but it is fair to say that the chance of every single one of the musicians, comedians, technicians and others being 100% drug-free is even lower than for the AFL footy players.) So, yes, it can work.
Maybe we've been taking the wrong tack, and dope-testing should strive to ensure that players have all had an equal
amount of the same kind
of dope. I'd love to see two AFL teams go head-to-head for four quarters after, say, dropping acid. 36 men, nine balls and a tentacled rainbow walrus called Fanny battle it out on a slowly dissolving vinyl field as it spins lazily through space ...
Or, if the coaches think that loading them up on No-Doz gets a good performance, how much more exciting if they were placed on an IV drip of speed, crank, PCB, ice, meth, ecstasy and cocaine to race around the field in a blur of raw aggro, tearing each other limb from limb. Now that's entertainment!
Sadly this idea is a few years to late: we could have had Timothy Leary
, Hunter S. Thompson
and William S. Burroughs
calling the match (a gonzo commentary team) ... with Keith Richards
nodding off on the boundary after scoring in the carpark.
Well, in any case, the point is that the punters would at least be getting what they paid for. And that's clearly not happening right now.
Citations: WADA; ABC Sport, 1/7/05; ABC Sport, 1/7/05; ABC Sport, 1/7/05
Word Count: 1129
Labels: drugs, footy, payola