The charging of Ben Cousins by the West Australian police and his subsequent termination by West Coast shows one thing – there is a serious problem with the AFL’s drug testing regime. But regardless of what Minister for Sport George Brandis says, the AFL isn’t specifically to blame. While the AFL’s “three-strikes” policy is almost universally considered too lenient, that isn’t even relevant in the Cousins case – the former West Coast star never actually tested positive for illicit drugs.

Before being found in a drug-induced stupor earlier this year, it was revealed that despite being a confessed drug addict, Cousins had astonishingly never tested positive in an AFL drug test. That fact, as Crikey has noted, may have been due to the fact that while the AFL talks the talk on drugs, in 2006, only around 500 drug tests were carried out – less than one per player per year. In all likelihood, Cousins never tested guilty because he was very rarely, if ever, actually tested.

However, since returning from a gruelling three week rehab stint in Malibu, one of the many conditions of Cousins’ return to football was that he would face random, as well as regular target testing after he returned to football.

Cousins returned to football in late July and since then it is believed that he has never failed a drug test. Cousins was reportedly tested shortly after former Eagle star Chris Mainwaring’s death two weeks ago but again, was not found to have drugs in his system.

The AFL drug testing is carried out by ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority). Despite Cousins being the most well known and publicly confessed drug user, he has somehow, miraculously, managed to avoid ever testing positive. Insiders suggest that part of the reason for it is that to certain drugs, like ecstasy, are only being detectable for 24 hours after consumption, with Cousins always careful not to mix such drugs with alcohol.

Sports Minister, Senator George Brandis, yesterday again criticised the AFL’s drugs policy, noting that “anyone who thinks that the AFL is doing enough in relation to drugs in their sport…is kidding themselves.”

Forget three strikes. The AFL could introduce a one-strike policy and by all accounts it wouldn’t make much difference if ASADA – the government run doping authority, which is presided over by the Brandis himself — can’t even get a positive drugs test out of Ben Cousins.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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