season 2005 can hardly be considered a nightmare for the AFL when its most
critical indicators – crowds and TV ratings – are more than
healthy, the last couple of weeks has seen the league under siege, particularly
with the howls on two major fronts over substance abuse (legal and otherwise),
and its new judiciary processes.

the changes to the tribunal system and charging players based on a
points system is now
becoming a major concern for the AFL as it deals with a torrent of abuse from
media and fans alike – and the clubs are equally perplexed – it’s the escalating
drugs row that has the league reaching for its own medicine.

the still raging caffeine debate has taken on a life of its own that now
extends well beyond the AFL into other major Australian sports, and like a wild
brushfire has now leapt on to the international drug agency watchdog radar,
it’s the as yet unsubstantiated allegations reported in The Bulletin yesterday from a disgraced
former Carlton player of widespread illegal drug use in the AFL, that has the
league ducking for cover.

while we have noted that Laurence Angwin has zero credibility, the mere fact
he’s made enormously damaging allegations that have been given massive media
coverage, must be dealt with. He can’t simply be dismissed as Carlton Football
Club yesterday tried to do, simply because he’s been shown on past form to be a
liar and social misfit, or that three league clubs can find nothing good to say
about him.

in sport comes in many guises and the AFL now finds itself embroiled in
ways it
could scarcely imagine before the season kicked off. The AFL had to get
the front foot – and so far with the caffeine issue it’s fallen asleep
at the wheel. If it needs to look further afield to appreciate just how
badly your sport can be
damaged if you try to downplay criticism or dismiss allegations out of
hand, its
media department should monitor events now unfolding in the US.

the four major teams sports bosses representing baseball, NBA, NFL and the NHL, have
either just been forced to testify or are about to in Washington, to Congressional hearings
investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports.
The four commissioners face two days of being grilled by the House Energy and
Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

But Bud Selig, MLB Commissioner, who’s most under the pump for his
sport’s totally
lax attitude to drug taking in baseball, has the most to fear. Unless
the sport cleans up its act through more stringent
regulations, Congress is certain to impose its own tougher standards.
the US
debate is primarily concerned with steroids, player associations also
there is a more relaxed view of penalties (or not) when it comes to the
use of so-called recreational drugs, which are now enveloping the AFL
via the Angwin

All of this negative
linkage to impressionable youth ultimately invites government scrutiny if sport
can’t get a grip on these issues itself.