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Max Gawn hits back over ugly claims about Demons as Garry Lyon calls for action

The Demons captain denies Melbourne has a drug culture after charges were laid against teammate Joel Smith.

Pictured Max Gawn
Max Gawn insists Melbourne does not have a drugs culture amid new anti-doping charges laid against teammate Joel Smith. Image: Getty

Melbourne Demons captain Max Gawn is adamant that the club does not have a drug culture after teammate Joel Smith had new anti-doping charges laid against him. The AFL confirmed on Tuesday that Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) had charged Smith with three anti-doping rule violations of the Australian Football Anti-Doping Code relating to the alleged "trafficking or attempted trafficking" of cocaine to third parties.

Smith was provisionally suspended in October, when he was notified of a positive cocaine test following Melbourne's round-20 win over Hawthorn on August 20 and since then things have escalated further. It's the latest blow for Melbourne in what has been a tumultuous off-season for the club, punctuated by several off-field issues that raised questions about the Demons' culture.

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While Gawn acknowledged the new charges were a shock, the Demons captain vigorously denied that there is a drug issue at the club. "It obviously is quite shocking. (But) all I can say is for 16 years I've been getting drug tested, for 10 years I've been getting hair tested," Gawn said on Wednesday.

"In that 10 years, I've never been told our club has a drug culture. Until I get told we have an issue or until I can see the issue myself, with my own eyes, I can only go off face value."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Joel Smith of the Demons celebrates a goal during the 2023 AFL First Semi Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 15, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
The AFL confirmed on Tuesday that Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) had charged Melbourne Demons player Joel Smith with three anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) of the Australian Football Anti-Doping Code. Image: Getty (Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The Demons' culture has been a constant talking point during the off-season despite chief executive Gary Pert claiming the club's culture was 'the best he's seen in 40 years'. Melbourne midfielder Clayton Oliver has also gone through a particularly trying time.

He was admitted to hospital in October in what was labelled a "medical episode" and was also pulled over by police on November 16 and charged with driving on a suspended licence. The troubled Demon was granted extended leave in December to deal with personal issues and has since returned to training.

But Gawn says despite the testing times, the club is banding together. "I'd like to think I have a good grasp on our group and we've had an unbelievable summer, with the turmoil we've had over September and October," Gawn said.

"I'm incredibly bullish we have the right culture. I'm not hiding - there are issues - and we will make sure we get that right. But there are going to be issues every single year, whether you guys (media) write about it or not."

Gary Lyon says Melbourne Demons must investigate club culture

Melbourne legend Garry Lyon says the Demons would be "negligent" not to thoroughly investigate player activities after the latest accusations of drug trafficking levelled against Joel Smith. The former Melbourne captain believes the allegations of trafficking were extreme but said the Demons must explore all the possible links from when the issue first emerged in October.

"If they haven’t been aware they would be negligent. If they are not doing a deep dive into their environment, they would be negligent," he told SEN. "I don’t think Joel Smith is a drug trafficker. Under this definition, anyone who indulges in drug taking, if you’re sharing them, you’re a trafficker.

"But while there is understanding for Joel, this is on him. This is all on him. While we deal with it, this responsibility lays at the feet of Joel."

with AAP

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