As the AFL prepares for its first drug summit next week, CEO Andrew Demetriou has revealed the league does have an issue with illicit drugs.
And he is expecting an increase in the number of positive player drug tests from last season .
He spoke exclusively to Channel 7.
“We absolutely think that illicit drugs is an issue. We know it to be one of the most serious issues in the community,” Demetriou said.
“It is an issue in the community. It is an issue globally. So we take it seriously. We've always taken it seriously.“
In 2011, the latest results, six AFL players tested positive to drugs.
All the players who tested positive used stimulants, like cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines. All took drugs during the off-season.
Andrew Demetriou is expecting that figure to rise for the 2012 season.
“I think we're going to see a spike this year, but I haven't got that data yet,” he said.
“We're all about preventative measures and educating people to make sure we can minimise these things too.
“Our ideal result is we're going to have zero positives, but we know we're not going to get there. That would be fool, a foolish expectation. “
When the AFL meets club CEOs, players and medical officials at its player welfare summit next Wednesday, no topic will be off limits.
Changes to the three-strike drug policy have not been ruled out.
Andrew Demetriou acknowledges that players most often go off the rails during the mid-season and end of season breaks, and suggested the possibility of a longer break to help ease the incredible burden placed on players.
“I believe they should have a longer break. We're pretty intense for 10 months,” he said.
“And we've still got players training when they're supposed to be on their break.
“But we're not at that stage yet, because I feel our clubs aren't trusting enough of our players to go away for a longer break.
When asked if he thought clubs were worried about the drug problem, Demetriou did not hesitate to answer in the positive.
“Ii dare say they would be. I think most CEOs I've spoken to over the years, have said, sometimes half jokingly, when they players are going on their break, every time the phone rings they half expect something is going to go wrong.”
There was no better example of this, than fallen star Ben Cousins.
The Brownlow medallist battled drug addiction throughout his AFL career, but never tested positive in a test.
Demetriou did however say the AFL would continue trying to eradicate drugs from the game and that players needed to be wary of the consequences.
“If there is a player, or an official who is involved in illicit drugs, or performance enhancing drugs, inevitably they will be caught,” he said.
“And if they get caught, they will pay a hell of a price.“