I'm not going to lie to you all: this has been a tough month for dealing drugs to AFL players. Once your most loyal customers, with deep pockets and all the time in the world, these men have now gone to ground. Demand has dried up. But it's not all doom and gloom. With a positive attitude, you will soon be able to resume business as usual.
It wasn't meant to be this way. Over the last couple of years, all the spade work you dealers had done getting to know the players had paid off. Friendships were forged. Some of you came to rely on the wise counsel of the players during your darkest hours. And business was booming! Who'd have thought crystal meth would be so popular. This stuff practically sells itself.
You've all had a great run this past ten years. With footy salaries averaging $200,000 a year, there was heaps of cash going spare. There's a limit to how much free-time the X-Box and Playstation can soak up. That's where you guys came in, offering a range of select products to the well-heeled and unscrupulous.
Product was being shipped by the tackle box. Not only that, but the flow-on effect for your business was astounding: every wannabe and hanger-on and impressionable teenager knows that cocaine and success are synonymous. Pills and powders are the secret trappings of wealth and fame. Ice is cool. Pay-per-trip love-boat cruises with whores, $20,000 coke parties with groupies, binges and benders, uppers and downers ... a role-model footballer is reported in the popular press saying that having cocaine snorted from his dick by a beauty queen is a life highlight. Dealing to footy stars is a marketing coup!
Of course, the decision to sell drugs to some big names in footy media was also inspired. Not only would this add to the general buzz about drug-taking ('rat-pack' indeed!), it would also compromise informed and influential opinion-leaders. All of a sudden, it was about "inconspicuous consumption" - with a nod and wink and subtle sniff on leaving the toilets. It's this kind of strategic thinking that sets you guys apart from the street-level dealers that are so rightfully locked-up for their brazen stupidity.
The only storm-cloud on the horizon was the prospect of rigorous drug testing. Thankfully, you guys managed to dodge a very scary bullet. Who'd have imagined the net effect of a powerful union and wishy-washy health academics would be to water down the testing regime to the point of uselessness? Drug dealers everywhere were grateful for that one. Even the threat of players being named and shamed was neutralised by the courts. While drug dealers weren't allowed direct representation during the trial, your interests were well served. What a relief!
Now, the positive results are heading south and look set to disappear entirely. This is not unexpected; after all, the AFL executive, the AFL Players' Association and the players themselves have as much - if not more - to lose from drug positives as the dealers. You guys can always take a paycut and deal to lesser mortals, whereas these professionals are committed to this one sport.
It was all peachy until those bastards at The Sunday Age got stuck in. Yes, I'm talking about Andrew Rule and his incendiary article. To pour petrol on the flames, he followed it up with more scandalous revelations. Poor old Ben Cousins copped it in the neck. What a disaster. It's not just the $3000 a week - a mere blip in the ocean of AFL drug cashflows - but the public scrutiny. No dealer wants to see their high-volume, trend-setting drug consumers in rehab. Or have their private phone calls with favoured customers played on Lateline. With politicians demanding "toughening up" of the policy (it is an election year), there's a serious danger the AFL will react and make some rash changes.
Right now, you guys are hurting. Sure, a few of the regulars are still buying but we hear it's slowed to a trickle. But there's no reason to abandon all hope. There's still plenty to be up-beat about for the AFL's illicit drug suppliers:
- Fickle attention. While AFL supporters can recall the 1967 Grand Final with amazing accuracy, they have trouble recalling details from last night's news. Three or four more laps of the goldfish bowl and they will have forgotten all about this horrid affair.
- Systemic changes. There won't be any. It's looking increasingly likely that the AFL will stick to its guns and leave the illicit drug-testing policy exactly how you'd like it - "don't test, don't tell".
- Changing technology. With talk of masking agents and manuals for "beating the tests" in circulation, player confidence in being able to indulge safely will only increase. Those low testing frequencies and positive rates will only embolden the players and tap unmet demand.
- Purchasing power. AFL salaries continue to climb - around 10% a year - meaning more cash available for more drugs.
I can't say when it will return to business as usual. Maybe a few weeks. Maybe a few months. But not too long. Eddie McGuire, whose expertise in media and football is not to be underestimated, discusses the New World Order and gives advice to players:
"I think there's enough warning signs now that so-called recreational drugs - if they're in it and are part of the party scene, it is now absolutely out of bounds." [McGuire said].
"I think what is going to be interesting now for the players is it's not just keeping it away from mum and dad and the club president and the coach," he said.
"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 because it's going to be the money shot of the century in Australian media and everyone will be out to get it," Maguire [sic] said. (Yahoo!7, 24/3/2007)
Just in case you need a little help reading between the (ahem) "lines", I'll help unpack McGuire's comment for you. Under the old regime keeping drug use away from the club president and the coach was, apparently, less of a concern. It is "now absolutely out of bounds" to take recreational drugs - opening up the possibility that things were a little different earlier. And if you are going to be "silly" and take drugs in the future, just ease up for the time being.
With coded messages like that coming from the top, you, the AFL's drug dealers, have little to worry about in getting through these testing times.
It seems open letters are now de rigueur: former cocaine user and lawyer Andrew Fraser has popped up with one to the AFL's Andy Demetriou:
Dear Mr Demetriou,
I have two questions for you:
■ When is Ben Cousins to be stripped of his Brownlow Medal?
■ When are the West Coast Eagles to be stripped of their premiership?
I read with amazement that not only is Cousins suspended on full pay but the club is talking about subsidising his rehabilitation and asking the AFL to kick in as well. They cannot be serious. (The Sunday Age, 22/4/2007)
Readers will no doubt remember Andrew Fraser for his recollection of snorting coke with Brownlow Medallists and premiership players. I doubt the AFL CEO will find the message as reassuring and uplifting as the above letter to dealers.
Another in the AFL Open Letters on Drugs Series, this time from health and law academics praising the AFL for its "3 Strikes" policy. They make it clear that primacy must be given to the players' welfare at the expense of any other public interest.
This kind of black-and-white thinking shows why medical ethics is a poor grounding in questions of public policy - it's fine for individuals but just doesn't scale well to groups. (Imagine if this same blinkered view was applied to, say, drink-drivers?)
The absurdity of getting a heroin addiction expert from Turning Point to endorse strategies for millionaires who take ecstasy infrequently is precisely what deserves to be parodied.
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