An incendiary article in The Sunday Age by investigative journalist Andrew Rule has blown the doors of the hypocrisy and cover-ups surrounding the AFL's illicit drug culture. In the ensuing mad scramble for positioning, more details have leaked out and the ability of clubs and the league itself to deal with this issue looks very shaky.
You can imagine the scene: thousands of mouth-breathing footy fans across Melbourne settle in one Sunday morning to read our premier tabloid, slowly sound out each words. Expecting to catch up on the latest important news about groin injuries and club gossip, instead they are confronted with this horrible headline: Drug abuse, shady dealings rampant among football's finest. Then they skip to the last line of the article: "You haven't lived until you've had a beauty queen snort coke off your dick".
"Ah", they eventually surmise, "this is why we've had to buy Foxtel, endure emotional blackmail about club memberships and choose between getting our kids into private school or the MCG ... so our beloved faultless footballers can snort, pop, drop, smoke and hit up with impunity." After some furrowing of the brow, the verdict came back from the heartland: "We are not well impressed."
If you haven't already read the article - and if you're reading this blog I can't see how you could not - then I strongly recommend checking it out. Andrew Rule has put together a solid piece of research highlighting how the drugs issue ties in with underworld links, off-field violence and other criminality. Importantly, he also shows up the impotence - even reluctance - of clubs to deal with this while their players are kicking goals on the field.
Many of the issues raised by Andrew Rule have been covered here before. The "news story" concerned allegations about a player "flatlining" (ie overdosing) in Las Vegas on a private trip late last year. This was an open secret in footy circles, and the player was later revealed to be Chad Fletcher from (where else?) the West Coast Eagles. His manager, Colin Young, maintains that his three days in hospital were a result of alcohol and a yellow fever vaccination. Given Young's bluster about lawyers and suits right now, I'll leave it up to the big newspapers to take that one on.
Other tidbits covered included:
- Steve Johnson - assault in Wangaratta.
- Brendan Fevola - assault in Ireland.
- Daniel Kerr - multiple assaults in Perth. He asked one (now former) girlfriend to pick him up at a party. His blackouts are so bad he allegedly said "Who are you? Are you my lift?". Scary stuff.
- "The Cocaine Kid" - Should be obvious who, but no names please! Quote: "Girls I know used to go around to his house and he would be snorting coke off the coffee table".
- West Coast Eagles - One cocaine-using player told [a club official] more than half the team were "into it". Worse, at least two club stars were "into the super, whizzbang stuff" so heavily that their supplier gives them other drugs to mask the effects of post-game binges. Oh dear. How effective is the masking agent? How reliable really are these drug tests?
- Laurence Angwin and Karl Norman - busted for turning up to training while still pinging from ecstasy. "There would have been eight blokes (Carlton players) there that day who wouldn't have passed a test. Five out of the nine in the leadership group couldn't make eye contact with us when they called us in because they'd been out with us," [Angwin] said.
- Unnamed Crows Star - "[A respected former coach] tells the story of a Crows star (with reputed shady connections) taking a fishing tackle box on a team trip. Inside were not hooks and sinkers, just dozens of brightly coloured pills. Drugs."
"We don't necessarily respond to innuendo and inference," he said.I hope this isn't just spin and that Andy is genuinely keen to take - and act on - such tips. Please, feel free to publish your sordid "I did coke with a footballer" stories here. However, names and other legally actionable details will be removed. If you're prepared to tip off the league then get in touch with them directly. I've checked, and there's no hotline as such, but you can go through reception (03) 9643 1999. For email, there is Adrian Anderson's personal assistant - I won't publish her details here due to spam. But you can get in touch with me via email and I will pass them on.
"If anyone's got any information that relates to an incident in Las Vegas or wherever, they should come forward and they should name names and they should tell us what they know.
"If we think it's of a serious nature we'll act upon it." (FoxSports, 14/3/2007)
That there's intense, widespread and chronic drug abuse in the ranks of the AFL is not disputed. The Speccy has previously cast doubt on the reliability of testing with just 24 positives out of 500 test! Now there's talk by players of "masking agents", providing one possible explanation for the absurdly low positive rates. We'll wait to see what the latest results have in store.
If the AFL is serious about cracking down on illicit drug abuse they would introduce tougher testing and reporting policies. No more "three strikes and you're outed" bullshit. Hopefully this latest burst of bad publicity will give Demetriou the ammo to stare down the AFL Players Association and implement a policy that will clean up the industry, not protect AFL drug-users who rip of their fans.
Citations: FoxSports, 14/3/2007
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