There has been a lot of talk recently about the drugs scandal that has engulfed Australian sport, particularly Australian Rules Football and the National Rugby League. Both leagues are strong proponents of managing in-house drug testing policies, an approach that many have found somewhat laughable – or comparable to giving the keys to the asylum to the inmates.
The work of the Australian Crime Commission is to be commended, and while many have been critical about what has been said about the amount that Ministers Clare and Lundy said at their press conference, I believe that it was the best approach to take at the time.
However, the big question in my mind is how to convince the AFL and NRL to change from their in-house drug testing policy to the more recognised ASADA and WADA drug testing policies. This means that recreational drugs would be tested as well as performance enhancing drugs, apparently an issue that the AFL has.
For my mind, there is a very simple solution to this.
The Federal Government could ban any code or club who does not sign up to the official ASADA testing program from entering any federally funded educational institute, community centre or sporting precinct. (the wording could be increased or decreased in scope depending on legislation).
There is method to this approach – both AFL and NRL have extensive development arms across every state and territory, where they work in conjunction with local clubs to encourage young people to take part in various activities associated with their sport. This is used partially for talent spotting, but it also gives the development officers the opportunity to capture the participants as fans and future consumers of their product. It has been noted by many that AFL clubs in WA are regularly at primary schools across the state every year.
If the government were to take this approach, it would cut off a major source of recruitment of future players and consumers for both codes, as well as any other sporting code that does not comply with the ASADA testing regime. This is at a time when football (soccer) is gaining a stronger foothold in the Australian community, something that AFL is particularly fearful of.
Given that the school year has just started, such a legislative or regulatory change, if implemented immediately, should result in a quick change in approach from both codes and will also ensure that all Australian sporting codes are held to the same stringent standards.
So… what do you think?