First things first, players who err need support

ILLICIT drugs in sport are again in the spotlight after the activities of young Bulldog Tom Liberatore over the weekend.
Nanjing Night Net

The AFL has a three-strikes policy, which means that players will suffer public consequences only after a third positive test. Debate on this issue and whether it is the best way to keep players on the right path will continue to simmer.

There has always been the doubt as to whether testing for recreational drugs is relevant and how appropriate the method is. The AFL would be an industry leader in the way it collects the data, maintains confidentiality and assists players who have tested positive through rehabilitation. The priority is, of course, education and giving the guilty parties the opportunity to get their lives back on track. The argument has been made, why wait until a third strike?

Drugs in sport can be put into four categories: performance-enhancing in competition; performance-enhancing out of competition; recreational drugs in competition; and recreational drugs out of competition.

It is widely accepted that performance-enhancing drugs, either in or out of competition, are not accepted. In fact, it is regarded as an appalling act of deception. The argument regarding recreational drugs is problematic and the jury is out as to whether their use can be deemed performance-enhancing – or enough to gain a significant edge over the competition.

The media attention surrounding Liberatore, accused of being in possession of an illicit substance, focuses on the effect on society of having an elite AFL player semi-conscious with a banned substance in his possession rather than why players need to use such means to ”enjoy” themselves. The AFL has done a good job providing education and all relevant data suggests its policy is working.

The recent example should not be one of, is the AFL’s policy relevant? But rather, what still needs to be done?

Before we as a community judge this young man, we must understand the parameters in which players have to perform their duties every week.

Are the expectations placed on young players too great? Are they not ready to become automatic role models? Is the draft age too young?

The simple answer might be that young men, a lot of money, social superiority and instant fame might not be the best mix.

The review of allowing players into the AFL must look at other ways to further educate them and have more mature players entering the AFL.

The AFL Players Association already has a mandatory induction camp where drugs, alcohol and treating women with respect are all covered. The AFLPA also provides players with yearly seminars, so they are very well educated.

The Bulldogs have insisted Liberatore take on full-time work. Perhaps this suggests they think this will help players have an appreciation of life away from football. If the age of AFL draftees was, say 20, they may have two years of employment under their belts. Does it then help them understand the meaning of a dollar and what is acceptable in society?

Life is not always about having a perfect, trouble-free path. Temptation is a dangerous curse.

Unfortunately, Liberatore has found himself in the wrong. But as a society, we will forgive and assist those who need it, provided their intentions are clear to make it right.

First, understand what has made this young man choose this path and then provide him with the education he needs to understand that this is something he does not need in order to have a good time with his mates.

The Secret Agent is one of the AFL’s 95 accredited agents.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.