The blood-letting and shock revelations continue as the AFL's worst PR crisis shows no sign of abating. As more evidence of atrocious behaviour, cover-ups, hypocrisy and manipulation come to light there is a growing sense that the public is fed up and that the AFL must act to clean up the game. Here, we cover the latest allegations and evidence in the drugs scandal in what's been a huge week for footy.
After Ben Cousins was dumped by the West Coast Eagles, his dad Bryan Cousins admitted Ben has a serious drug problem. Cousins has been linked with cocaine and crystal methamphetamine ('ice'). However, current reports suggest that he is still in denial about the extent of his addiction that is allegedly costing him around $3000 per week. (This huge sum - over $150K a year - is still less than a fifth of his massive salary.)
Meanwhile, it seems our earlier praise for AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou's response to this issue may have been hasty. Former AFL investigator Rick Lewis alleges that he alerted the then operations manager to rumours and allegations around drug use at the Eagles in 2002, only to have all inquiries shut down. Demetriou - now earning a million bucks a year - flatly denies this. Covert police recordings then emerged on ABC's Lateline where West Coast's Daniel "Special K" Kerr is heard discussing drugs with convicted dealer Shane Waters. Also caught on tape was the Kangaroo's Aaron Edwards and basketballer James Harvey.
Certainly, allegations made by an anonymous ex-girlfriend of Kerr make sense now - his frequent disorientation and confused state was not due solely to his brain being damaged by the standard of conversation amongst his peers, but the debilitating effects of ketamine (a horse tranquiliser). While not caught on tape himself, Cousins was mentioned. It's unlikely any ketamine sourced by the players was used for amateur veterinary purposes.
The bad press kept right on rolling through the weekend. The Sunday Age has continued its expose into the murky underbelly of AFL's brightest stars with another piece by award-winning investigative journalist Andrew Rule. (Rule's heroic earlier piece broke the current media storm, strangely ignored by rival Herald-Sun.) This week's explosive article is mandatory reading and contains more startling allegations:
- An unnamed former AFL player with a massive media profile has long been linked to cocaine use (his identity is an open secret, but will not be revealed here). He is part of a wider police investigation and will likely soon be charged or forced to give evidence.
- He is part of a 'rat-pack' of big shots from the AFL, media and entertainment world who order thousands of dollars a week in coke from a well-known "dealer to the stars".
- There is a hedonistic 'love boat' in operation:
The multimillion-dollar pleasure craft is used for weekend cruises on the bay to which selected "guests" pay up to $5000 for unlimited cocaine and sex with escorts. Current and former AFL players and media "players" are believed to be among those who have used the boat.
- With mud flying everywhere, the players' managers are starting to panic:
The manager of one West Coast player was so concerned at rumours that he took the unusual step of contacting the The Sunday Age to say that if any story were published about his client without "stat decs [statutory declarations], video evidence and an affidavit from his mother" then he would sue for damages.
- West Coast coach John Worsfold concedes that up to eight of his current players have admitted to drug use.
- Collingwood president Eddie McGuire went on 3AW to send a dangerous mixed-message to players, urging them to take a break from recreational drugs until the heat blows over:
"Don't be caught this weekend or any weekend going forward and if you're silly enough to still be on it for God's sake don't do it at the moment ..."
- Convicted former lawyer Andrew Fraser (who spent five years in jail for his own cocaine habit) admits to snorting coke with AFL super-stars and asks (not unreasonably) "why are they a protected species?".
- An amusing anecdote - with disturbing undertones - came to light in Spy about The AFL Footy Show:
With the vexed question of footballers and drugs looming large, two of the top-rating show's stars almost came to blows, with one distinctly unimpressed by a jokey suggestion made during the show that the program's participants could submit to live drug tests on camera. "Never set me up like that again or I'll knock you out," was the not-so-friendly warning.Yikes! I wonder if the celebrity in question still had wobbly legs from an erotic nautical adventure?
We can be confident of more dirt and disgrace emerging in the coming weeks. While the current controversy is centred on the West Coast Eagles, it will no doubt spill over into other clubs. The sheer weight of evidence will simply make untenable the past strategy of the clubs and AFL leadership : "plausible deniability" is dead.
Taking a cue from the Howard Government's AWB playbook, this strategy entails sticking to the line "we only heard rumours, nothing concrete" ... while ensuring that nothing concrete could ever turn up by closing down investigations (if police officer Rick Lewis is to be believed, at least) and fighting tooth-and-nail to keep drug use under wraps.
This is not going to wash with the public anymore. Right now, even many apologists and excuse-makers are shocked at this widespread, persistent behaviour from their idolised heroes. But slowly, people will realise all this debauchery is being paid for by their club memberships, pay-TV subscriptions and match tickets. Once this realisation kicks in and cashflow threatened, the AFL executive will be forced to re-examine its deliberately lenient drugs policy and the efficacy of its testing regime. Allegations of masking agents, manuals for avoiding detection, "test-free days" etc will all be looked at.
It will be painful as the public withdraws from its rose-coloured glasses and ugly reality seeps in, but we can all look forwards to a cleaner, safer game.
More startling allegations of drug abuse by an embittered ex-girlfriend - this time involving Big Cheese Sam Newman. Newman is a boat-owning media "personality" and hardy perennial who trades on his reputation as a bon vivant. He's also the alleged victim of a $100K fraud by an ex, Louisa Glenda Larkin:
[Her lawyer, Paul Holdenson, QC,] said that during her personal relationship with Newman she was introduced to the use of cocaine and ecstasy and later suffered a psychotic episode from her drug use.
Jeffrey Cummins, a forensic psychologist who has been treating Larkin, told the court that Larkin told him she had used drugs sporadically before she met Newman in 1999.
"As a result of being in that relationship she was exposed to excessive drug use ... she became addicted to cocaine," he said. (The Age, 8/11/2007)
Not a good look. But, that's how the other half lives, I guess.
Word Count: 1085