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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Here We Go Again ... Scandal Deepens

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.

*** UPDATE ***

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

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  • Looks like former player Dale Lewis' statement of a few years ago that 75% of AFL players are on drugs was spot on, despite the AFL and the media trying to muzzle him. Mega bucks for young men who kick a ball around and have lots of times on there hands, is it really suprising that they get into drugs? Unfortunately, the public will not turn away from the game in protest against the criminal nature of its practioners and consequently, nothing will ever change.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:55 pm, March 25, 2007  

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  • My jaw has been dropping the whole week.
    The behaviour of the players and the code is disgusting but unfortunately predictable. They are treated as mini gods by mindless and short sighted morons. I have seen some articles suggesting that Cousins behaviour is excusable because ' he is so big in Perth'. Wow the pressure of being big in the most isolated capital in the world must be overwhelming. These guys have no perspective on anything outside of australian football. So I wonder if the AFL are considering taking points during the season if any of their players are found to be taking drugs. While you have idiots like Eddie Maguire saying basically ' don' t get caught ( which is even more mind blowingingly stupid as a senior person in a listed company!) there is no motivation for the players to change their way of enjoying themselves. As an Australian who lives overseas it just reminds me of how short sighted and narrow minded SOME Australians are. The fact that these guys get away with these things and the code and club do nothing but make excuses is a joke.
    Premiership Football players in the UK, who are generally the same overpaid idiots as you have in the AFL, earn what poor little Ben's annual salary in two weeks, and are somewhat better known on a global scale. Although some of their behaviour is equally outrageous and shocking as the AFL players, they are usually ( not always!! ) held to account and sacked or traded if they show continuing behaviour issues. Ben Cousins nowadays would not have beeen tolerated at a top club. ( See Adrian Muto of Chelsea)
    If the clubs can't find out if they have a drug issue because of the three strikes, and the powerful players federation keep protecting the drug users through the three strikes rule, the AFL should hit the clubs where it hurts and take points away from any club that has a positive test. Four points a test. That would capture their tiny minds attention. The Players can keep their three strikes, but the clubs may be more motivated to use their informal networks to know who is doing what and then do something about it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:30 pm, March 25, 2007  

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  • I am so happy that from the last week and a half we have finally in this country worked out how to get rid of the drug problem in Australia.
    How could we have missed it for so long. I mean it was right in front of our faces all this time and we looked away.

    We just need to ban all playing, participating and watching of AFL football. Apparently (from whats written on this blog anyway) it is just a front for the drug smuggling industry.

    What smarts by those Drug Smugglers to spend a 100 plus years setting up a sport just so they can push there drugs.

    But seriously, lets face facts. There is a drug problem in society and as the AFL is part of society, there is a drug problem in Footy.
    Ben Cousins has a problem and hopefully now he will deal with it.
    There seems there are others around the league that might have a problem now, most don't. To suggest that 75% of AFL players are on drugs is just plain dumb and shows a total lack of understanding of the subject.

    How many other industries/jobs do people take 4 weeks holiday and have to tell there employers where they will be to allow for random testing? My guess is none. Sure there maybe some that test while on the job (army and mining are two that I have heard of) but pretty sure they can do what they like on their leave.

    In many ways if the AFL wanted to look after the AFL image and not try to help there employees, they should stop their out of competition testing but the AFL care about their players and so the testing will remain. When are other parts of Society going to follow? Perhaps (as touched on in the post) Lawyers would be a good place to start.

    So to conclude, the problems out West are there and don't do the AFL any favours, but they are a small fish in a bigpond and the AFL need to do more testing but are a long way ahead of everyone else.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:14 pm, March 25, 2007  

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  • yes drugs is part of the broader culture and AFL is part of that culture. You raise a comparison between AFL and other vocations by asking how many industries do drug testing whilst on holidays. You are correct, very few, but then you could ask some of the same questions about the AFL industry. Drug testing is becoming more common and will become standard in a number of industries. These guys have chosen a profession where drugs can both enhance their performance and their bodies. It is a core competency of their job. Therefore to get tested is fair.

    In terms of comparisons, I think the AFL players get it pretty easy.

    How many industries do you have a drug test kept from your employer even when it is a positive test ?
    How many industries when a medical is taken to secure employment or life insurance is the drug test component of the test kept from the employer ?

    How many industries or employers tolerate their employees ( even a small minority) who re offend with violent crimes without dismissal ?

    How many industries and employers knowingly employ people with criminal records ( No questions asked of the employee ) ?

    How many industries turn a blind eye to institutionalised sexual harassment and misogynist behaviour ?

    The list is endless. Football players do earn quite a bit of money and as such have a responsibility to their clubs. Most people who earn the amount these players do would be dismissed immediately if they behaved the way some of these people do. Not in AFL.

    To compare some spoilt footballers drug problems and usage to the general problem of drugs in society is very misguided. Very few people can afford $3,000 per week for drugs and if they have such a habit, it is likely to be funded by crime. The AFL has glamourised drugs through it's inaction and made it acceptable to turn a blind eye.

    This guy has allegedly had a drug problem for a number of years and the club and the code have turned a blind eye. No help, no rehabilitation, nothing but praise. ( Except when he ran away from a breath test- not sure , but I think that is a criminal offense ?)
    His example and the myth he and others have created, ( that you can perform while taking class A drugs) , contributes , in part, to the drug culture.

    ' Look if they can do it, so can I.' Footballers are not role models, nor should they ever be. They are generally very limited people who are good at one thing. Some are exceptions, but as in all walks of life, they are few in numbers. They are very ordinary people who are given extra ordinary status by morons who want to be them. They are watched by people because they do provide some entertainment. They are like everyone else and should be rewarded and punished in the same way. I wonder if young Mr Cousins will be questioned in the same manner other heavy users are to give up their suppliers. Somehow I don't think so.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:58 pm, March 25, 2007  

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  • Holy shit, Molly, that's the best thing you've ever written! (Including on your own blog.)

    Thoughtful, clear, cheekily satirical, properly spelt, forceful ... bloody good job.

    Of course, I have to disagree with your main point :-)

    Specifically, it is right to hold the AFL to a different standard than other industries because:

    1) AFL players are paid a massive premium over what else they'd be doing (ie selling shoes or pumping petrol).

    2) AFL players - like it or not - are role models for millions of children and young people.

    3) AFL players make a living from getting a performance out of their bodies in a way that others don't.

    Similarly, pilots and surgeons are held to different standards (but for reasons to do with safety instead).

    As for the 75% figure, it's always going to be tough to work out. Hmm, how many are on the WCE squad? 24? What's 8/24? Call it 33%. This is obviously a lower bound since players are more likely to keep quiet than make a false confession ...

    Angwin reckoned "five out of nine" in the leadership group had been out on pills the night before he was sacked. That's 55%. Dermot Brereton noted there "wasn't a beer in sight" on Mad Monday. But this is all anecdotal.

    Certainly that ludicrous 4% figure advanced by the AFL has been blown out of the water. I feel personally offended that they even tried to pass that off as a legit number.

    The suggestion that teams should lose points for a positive test result is certainly an interesting one. It aligns the individual clubs' interests with that of the community. However, I don't have any confidence in the AFL to engage WADA or ASDA or whoever to do the tests fairly (see above).

    I'm hopeful that we're seeing the tide turn against outrageous behaviour from the AFL. At a time when salaries for players - and executives! - are going through the roof, as games disappear from free-to-air TV, as we just hear about big money deals and court cases and sponsorships, as meat pies become unaffordable at the 'G ... people just don't want to hear about coke parties and prostitute cruises and beauty queens snorting coke of anyone's dick.

    The whole appeal of footy is that these blokes are like us; they're not princelings from an oil-rich Arab state or the useless offspring of lapsed European monarchies. We don't mind if they get drunk and play up a bit, because we can relate to that.

    But this new stuff ... it creates resentment instead of a feeling of inclusiveness. Is it really "our" club anymore when a party involves players plonking 20 grand in cocaine on the table while naked women cavort around?

    It used to be egalitarian and community-based. Approachable heroes next door. Now ... it's like they're from another planet. That, in the long run, is the real threat to Australian footy.

    By Blogger Greg, at 11:53 pm, March 25, 2007  

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  • Unfortunately I don't think that AFL will have the tide turn against them as a result of the players behaviour - and I think they know that. Nothing breeds contempt like success. I am even prepared to wager that attendances and television ratings will be at record levels in 2007. Many people are stuck in an obsessive celebrity culture fixation and the latest round of scandals will only fuel the interest in the sport and the people who play it. Somehow by seeing someone like Ben Cousins fall from grace makes many people feel better about themselves. By seeing faults in their heros, people feel closer to them. The outpouring of sympathy for Cousins suggests that people do not hold him accountable for his actions, he is somehow a victim. Forget all the probable victims of his behaviour, he has been wronged. It makes good fodder for the papers and the bloggers but in the end there will be another bigger and better scandal and eventually it will become very tragic. Look at the world cup cricket. They paid lip service to gambling but did very little actual reform. It would have upset India and Pakistan too much. Then you get Bob Woolmer. The scandals will become bigger, more dangerous a player will eventually overdose ( and not be brought back) or an innocent will die because of drugs and the AFL. At that point of time there may be some real action taken.

    I love the romance of the community based clubs but think they disappeared when the AFL came along. When the VFL, SANFL, and WAFL were no longer the standard of their cities, all community disappeared. It was a natural progression driven by the need of a better product to compete against other entertainment forms, but i think those days are gone. TV rights from the Packer days in cricket, the sky network in the UK, and every USA network have destroyed any sense of community in professional sport. We should live with it. For me I would still rather go and watch a VFL, SANFL or WAFL game any-day than an AFL game. The quality isn't there but it is far more about sport than the pumped up product full of faux celebrities that is now the AFL.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:23 am, March 26, 2007  

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  • Ah, dammit, you're probably right.

    Bugger. What a depressing thought.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:06 am, March 26, 2007  

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  • oh not really. Look on the bright side, your blog will increase in popularity and you can sell out for even more!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:21 am, March 26, 2007  

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  • The spin doctors are out in force, it's a society issue, not an AwFuL issue.

    Of course the fact that these players have signed a code of conduct that the rest of society hasn't means nothing.

    Drugs may be a problem amongst society as a whole, but it shouldn't be among proffesional sportsmen who sign contracts netting them far above the ordinary mans wage, these contracts contain conditions of employment which include the drug code to which players must adhere. Don't sign the fucking paper if you can't keep off the horse tranquilisers ladies.

    I'm so fucking sick of the apologists, these guys are junkies and deserve the disdain of all of us.

    Can we expect a corresponding rise in violent AwFuL incidents as withdrawl symptoms start biting on the back of an increase in tests?

    Maybe it's time for some sort of alert staus above red? Perhaps White alert to indicate the possibility af a drug induced rampage.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:26 pm, March 26, 2007  

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    Another footballer hands out his own justice

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:16 am, March 27, 2007  

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  • By way of follow up ...

    For those curious about The Footy Show drug testing incident mentioned above, there's a discussion thread on Big Footy that's worth a read.

    Also, I'd like to remind readers that Sam Newman has been to court over his maritime incompetence. I wonder if he's still got that boat?

    Still no word on the identity of the media performer who's allegedly about to be rolled over (or charged) by the Victoria Police Drugs Squad.

    Rest assured, I'll post that as soon as it's not going to send me broke to do so.

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:02 pm, March 27, 2007  

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  • Bloody hell, I write an angry post about the Cousins fiasco and I don't even have a look at yours, first.

    That'll learn me.

    I cannot believe that this is continually being hushed up by the AFL and the media.

    When Lewis went public a few years ago, I was like, "So what? They're people, aren't they?"

    The extent that the AFL and the media went to discredit Lewis was extraordinary. I still get angry over that.

    By Blogger Dikkii, at 4:51 pm, March 27, 2007  

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  • Lewis claimed that it was 75% of players! I don't think the media said there was no one, they said 75% was high.

    And to say that the AFL media is hiding this is just wrong, I am sick of it. I suggest that people read the Andrew D's open letter and then the fact that the number of players returning positive tests went down by over 50% last year. Still to many, but if it keeps reducing, thats what we want to see.

    I am sure Greg will claim that there is more then that and I would agree. He may claim that they are better at tricking the tests, but that is a slur on the drug testers.
    You may claim that they don't enough tests, and there is truth in that as well, but it was the same number as last year (to my knowledge) and you would expect if the same amount or more of players are still using, there would be a similar amount caught. A 50% is a big change.

    So it would seem that the AFL and there experts are on the right track.

    And for those that say the AFL are trying to cover it up to protect their image, thats just crap. All the media slamming of the AFL is much more hurtful then the naming of the players. This to me shows that the AFL have the policy to look after the players well being, after all a sucide from a player being named or sacked would be a lot worse for the AFL's image.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:44 pm, March 29, 2007  

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  • The media slamming the AFL ? The media are benign when dealing with the AFL. The AFL drug testing regime has until now been a bit of a joke. The fact Ben Cousins has apparently never returned a positive test shows either the effectiveness of masking agents or a lack of will on behalf of the drug testers. From what I understand you have to be a real idiot to be caught by the testing methods.

    By Blogger Simon, at 7:05 pm, March 29, 2007  

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  • Intrestingly, a number of high-profile former players from Melbourne-based teams have come forward and insisted via press release that they're not the player mentioned by The Sunday Age.

    These include Gary Lyon and Dermot Brereton.

    Sam Newman (from a Geelong-based club) was also at pains to point out, via Eddie McGuire, that while he owns a boat, he's not involved in the "luxury love boat" allegations.

    If the allegations by The Sunday Age are true, then presumably the absence of criminal charges will confirm that the player in question has "rolled over" to the police.

    This is widely considered an unwise move in Melbourne's drug-fuelled underworld.

    You'd have to wonder if you'd almost be better off getting charged - even if innocent!

    By Blogger Greg, at 10:06 pm, March 29, 2007  

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  • Last year the AFL changed the result after a game after a silent siren in Launceston to award Freo 4 points.

    Later that year, the Eagles won the grand final 85 to 84 which is a
    1.19% margin. So if the Eagles overall had a 1.2% advantage become of illegal drug use, then perhaps the Swans should be declared winners of the 2006 Grand Final.

    Ben Johnson won an Olympic Gold Medal. However he lost it after has was found to have taken illegal drugs.

    So in light of the use of illegal drugs used by West Coast players last year, should the AFL change the result of the Grand Final and declare the Swans winners?
    Vote in the poll.

    Don't let footy die of thirst
    Keep grass roots footy alive!
    Join the team, play the game

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:51 pm, March 31, 2007  

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