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Three strikes is not zero tolerance.



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Three strikes is not zero tolerance

During Question Time in the Senate today, Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator George Brandis called upon the AFL to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to illegal drugs.

Senator Brandis told the Senate that the AFL’s three-strike drug use policy undermines the integrity of sport, and sends the wrong message to young people.

“A three-strikes policy, is not a zero-tolerance policy,” Senator Brandis said.

“I find it impossible to accept that it is only when a player has been found to be taking unlawful drugs - in other words has been found to have been guilty of committing a drug related criminal offence - three times, that he is considered to have engaged in conduct unbecoming of a player or of bringing the sport into disrepute.”

“The words ‘illicit drugs’ are in fact weasel words. These are illegal drugs and their use in any but defined medical circumstances is a criminal offence.”

Senator Brandis said Australia has been a leader in the fight against doping in sport and the Australian Government supports a zero-tolerance approach to illegal drug use.

A copy of the Minister’s answer is attached.

Media contact: Travis Bell 0448 950 248

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

29/07

Senate Hansard Tuesday, 27 March 2007

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE

Drugs in Sport

Senator BERNARDI (2.38 pm) —My question is to the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Brandis. Will the minister update the Senate on the latest developments in the fight against the use of drugs in sport, particularly illegal drugs?

Senator BRANDIS —I thank Senator Bernardi for the question and acknowledge his distinguished contribution to Australian sport as both a participant and as a member of the Australian Sports Commission. In the course of my answer I propose to address an issue that he first raised in this place in an important speech on 11 September last year.

Australia has been a leader in the fight against doping in sport. It played an active role in the development the UNESCO International Convention Against Doping in Sport, which came into force on 1 February this year. Last year the Australian government launched the

Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority, ASADA, a single, dedicated focal point designed to combat the use of drugs in sport. Australia was also an active participant in the negotiations associated with drafting the World Anti-Doping Authority code. The code has been adopted by the International Olympic Committee, national Olympic organisations and

Senator the Hon. George Brandis S.C. MINISTER FOR THE ARTS AND SPORT

all Olympic sports.

The Australian government's position is that all sports in receipt of government funding are required to be code compliant. All such Australian sports are code compliant, including the AFL. Under the code, while unlawful drugs are prohibited in competition—whether or not they are performing enhancing—only performance-enhancing drugs are prohibited out of

competition. Non-performance-enhancing drugs—sometimes described as illicit drugs—are not generally banned by the WADA code out of competition. The words ‘illicit drugs' are in fact weasel words. These are illegal drugs and their use in any but defined medical

circumstances is a criminal offence.

This government supports a zero-tolerance approach to illegal drug use. While it is the philosophy of the WADA code to leave it to domestic law to police the use of non-performance-enhancing drugs out of competition, the obligations of sporting bodies are, in the government's view, more extensive. That is the very point that Senator Bernardi made in his speech last year. Mr Andrew Demetriou, the chief executive officer of the AFL, said last year:

Our strong view is that the fight against illicit drugs is not a fight that should be restricted to match day. We believe that if we are to take the toughest possible stance against drugs, then we need to fight the use of illicit drugs out of competition and out of season. It is not a part-time fight. It is a full-time fight.

They are commendable words, but unfortunately the AFL's three-strikes policy, while admittedly assuming an obligation beyond the strict requirements of the WADA code, is unequal to the standard prescribed by Mr Demetriou. A three-strikes policy is not a zero-tolerance policy. It is not, in Mr Demetriou's words, the toughest possible stance against drugs. It does not go far enough.

Under the three-strikes policy, after a first positive test, the player enters a treatment/education program coordinated by an AFL medical officer, who informs the AFL club doctor at that point. The club doctor is under strict ethical and contractual obligations to maintain confidentiality, so the result is known only to those involved in the player's treatment and education. A second positive test is dealt with by the AFL medical officer with a view to further educating, counselling and treating the player. The AFL medical officer informs the relevant AFL club doctor on a confidential basis. It is only after a third positive test that the AFL player is deemed to have breached AFL rule 1.6 dealing with conduct unbecoming or prejudicial to the interests of the AFL and must face the AFL tribunal. If the player is found guilty in those circumstances —(Time expired)

Senator BERNARDI —I have a supplementary question, Mr President. Can the minister contrast the AFL's doping policy with the doping policies of other sporting organisations?

Senator BRANDIS —Under rule 1.6, after the third positive test the player found guilty will receive a suspension of not less than six matches but not more than 12 matches, except in the case of marijuana, where the sanction for the first offence is up to six matches. I find it impossible to accept that it is only when a player has been found to be taking unlawful drugs—in other words, has been found to have been guilty of committing a drug related criminal offence — three times, that he is considered to have engaged in conduct unbecoming of a player or of bringing the sport into disrepute. Recent events highlight that anyone taking these drugs exposes themselves and others to a range of health and broader social risks. In the case of elite athletes, this practice undermines the integrity of the sport and sends the wrong message to the young people who look up to those athletes.

ENDS.

Document ID: 60673 | Last modified: 28 March 2007, 10:52am