Administrators of the two major football codes – the AFL and the NRL – are putting their credibility at risk because of their double standards over drug taking players and players betting on football matches.

The AFL has relentlessly tried to run down the source of a leak to the Sydney Morning Herald giving the names of players found by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to have tested positive for illegal drugs, such is its obsession about keeping the names of drug cheating players secret.

The NRL is planning to adopt a similar system as the AFL – one which means drug taking players are not named until a third offence – but it has run into the commendable opposition from a number of clubs who want a much tougher line.

But in the last week or so, the AFL had absolutely no objection when four players were named for having placed bets on AFL matches – matches apparently not involving their own teams.

In one case, the player is believed to have bet $10 on an AFL match. He has been publicly shamed, along with the three other players, and now faces a fine or even a suspension.

Over the weekend, the NRL CEO, David Gallop, chimed in to back up his AFL counterpart with dire warnings that players caught betting on NRL matches would be heavily fined or have their contracts torn up.

While a hard line with players gambling on matches their teams are taking part in is necessary, and even betting on other matches needs to be discouraged, the double standards are a real problem for both codes.

If you are apprehended for drug abuse, the first offence is a “suspended” fine – amounting to no penalty at all – and effective protection from being publicly named.

But if you are caught betting as little as $10 on a match – even a match not involving you or your team – you run the risk of a heavy fine, possible suspension, and naming and shaming.

The excuse given for keeping drug taking players names secret is that they deserve the chance of “rehabilitation”. A player who might have a gambling problem does not seem to warrant the same chance!

The NRL has an escape route before its too late – with a significant number of clubs refusing to agree to the introduction of AFL style “three strikes” laws for drug takers.

And given the unfavourable publicity the AFL is attracting on the issue it is surely only a matter of time before the media savvy CEO Andrew Demetriou revisits the policy as well.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey