The AFL is becoming increasingly desperate in its defence of its seriously flawed drugs policy judging by an extraordinary claim by the AFL CEO, Andrew Demetriou, that the AFL is the only tester outside competition and a pioneer in anti-doping.

This claim has brought a sharp response from the CEO of the NRL, David Gallop. While the NRL lags behind the AFL in some areas — notably television rights and free to air broadcasting — its approach to the drug problem is most assuredly not one of them.

Demetriou was being too clever by half with this claim. The AFL itself undertakes drug testing, not the clubs. The reverse is the case in the NRL. But while testing is a club responsibility, penalties are subject to review by the NRL. And clubs are also subject to ASADA random testing.

Last year the AFL carried out 500 tests on players. The Brisbane Broncos alone carried out 280 tests last year, the Cowboys more than 300. The total number of tests on NRL players is believed to have been around 3,000.

Recently a prominent AFL player said he had not been tested in years. NRL players can expect tested at least once a year, and most are tested several times. Last year a number of NRL players admitted they had been tested TEN times!

The AFL’s claim that it is the only tester outside competition is also nonsense. The AFL does not test players on their rostered days off. The NRL clubs test players at any time – including during the off-season.

And today the AFL will slip even further behind the NRL on drug testing. After a revolt by NRL clubs against a plan — driven by the players’ association — to embrace the discredited AFL “three strikes” policy, the NRL will today confirm a new uniform “two strikes” policy.

Clubs will be immediately informed when a positive test is returned, unlike the AFL which persists in keeping positive tests secret.

And the penalty for a second positive test is even more severe than the AFL penalty after a third positive test. Any NRL player testing positive for a second time will be banned from playing for 12 matches, be fined 15% of net income, undergo compulsory counselling, and be publicly outed. These will be the minimum penalties. The club will have the right to impose an even tougher penalty — cancelling the player’s contract.

And there is one other fact Demetriou cannot ignore. Ben Cousins is now on the record as having a drug addiction, yet the AFL’s testing regime has failed him both on a professional and personal level. 

If the AFL’s testing regime is as stringent and effective as Demetriou and AFL Players’ Association chief Brendan Gale are claiming, and Cousins problem was known to League authorities, how long has the AFL been sitting on its hands over his situation?

And if the League was genuinely blind-sided by the revelations, how can the League seriously claim they have a functional testing regime?