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drugs in sport: another miscue « Previous | |Next »
May 27, 2007

How come the Howard Government has decided to pick a fight with the AFL over drugs in sport? Senior government ministers, such as Christopher Pyne and Peter Costello, have done so by accusing it of being soft on drugs because players can only be sanctioned on the third positive test and demanding that it adopt the government's zero tolerance policy?

The AFL and NRL are the only sporting bodies in Australia which test players for illicit drugs out of competition in addition to the World Anti-Doping Agency anti-doping policy, which focuses on testing for performance-enhancing drugs. The AFL has a three strikes policy under which clubs are told only if a player has failed a test for illicit drugs for a third time.

That means a player can fail a test for illicit drugs and still take to the ground. The AFL's policy seeks to work with players who have used recreational and other drugs before taking steps that would adversely affect their careers, while also protecting players' privacy. This treats illicit drug use as a medical matter that puts the wellbeing of the illicit drug user first.

So why decide to beat-up the AFL, as opposed to the government demanding out-of-competition testing from the 88 other sporting bodies? Is Canberra's "Tough on Drugs" policy to be the only approach? Is it because it is an election year and the drums on law and order need to be sounded? So AFL players found to be using illicit drugs should face immediate suspension, the matter be referred to the police and the player/ users seen as criminals.

As Christopher Scanlon observed in The Age a week or so ago:

The AFL's approach, on the other hand, has allowed [Ben] Cousins to get the help he needs, while leaving open the possibility of him resuming his career. Contrary to what the Treasurer thinks, the message that has been sent out to children is that drugs can jeopardise your health and end a promising and lucrative career. The pity of this approach is that similar high-quality rehabilitation services that have helped Cousins aren't available to every drug user who needs help.

Isn't this a more productive approach to the treatment of those who have problems with illicit drugs?


| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Comments

Comments

Do people sometimes ponder the relationship between media, ideology, totalitarianism and social conditioning?
Another example of a media product involved in inculcating neo lib values into isolated individuals in an atomised society is Big brother"Big Brother" a sort descendent from Hitler's "Jugend".
The youthful audience is removed from a more protective social culture operative throughhisorical memory and communal nurture, through constructed identification with the experiences and then manufactured values of subservience and acceptance of surveillance,from the workplace onwards, that BB seeks to inculcate.
Like wise we see sports people conscripted as role models for "oppression from the inside out" ambit of modern authoritarian tendencies. We move from the tolerable, consensual, logically explicable notion of (eg, guaranteeing a level playing field in a specific field of endeavour;eg deterring cheats out of the sport example; to the totalitarian demand for acceptance of the subjugative (privacy) and irrational, against the knowledge of subjects OF this very irrationality.
The absurdity is highlighted through the tacit understanding of the role of alcohol, magnified through a health double standard or contradiction against another (but illicit) social drug withhealth implications; Marijuana.
What's healthy is what "they" say, rather than science. And the issue of privacy is once again overthrown.

Paul,
It's a strange one isn't it---the government's criticism of the league's "three strikes" policy for illicit drug use; teven though the AFL is the first major sports competition to develop a code on illicit drugs in addition to testing for performance-enhancing substances.

The government argues that sportstars are role models for the young so they should be treated as criminals, rather than for a a health condition. This is line with community standards.

From what I can gather the Howard Government ministers are not arguing that rehabilitation and education are not a deterrent for the athlete or protection for the sport.

Pyne just can't help himself. He refuses to listen to any evidence that treats drug abuse as a medical problem and which does not put drugs other than alcohol or cigarettes in a special 'evil' category where debate is off limits. As AFL players have already said, let's see the pollies subject themselves to the same conditions, perhaps even going to the point of random breath tests during sitting times!

DJ,
yes it is suprising given the social liberal background of Pyne and Brandis, which would incline them to the health rather than the law and order approach to drug addiction.

I can only assume that it is a calculated attempt by both Ministers to shore up the Coalition's socially conservative base. It showed the base that they were doing something on the values issues.