Max Gawn hits out at Melbourne Demons 'fake injury' claims amid AFL cover-up rumours

The Melbourne Demons captain says he would be 'amazed' if the fake injury reports are true.

Melbourne captain Max Gawn has hit out at suggestions Demons players have faked injuries to escape positive drug tests. The Melbourne ruckman said he was "taken aback" by Federal MP Andrew Wilkie telling parliament that Demons players had been alleged to have faked injuries and withdrawn from games to avoid match-day testing by Sports Integrity Australia (SIA).

On Tuesday, Wilkie informed parliament of allegations made by former Melbourne club doctor Zeeshan Arain, ex-Demons president Glen Bartlett and Shaun Smith - father of alleged Demon drug trafficker Joel Smith. Wilkie said the trio had alleged that players who tested positive prior to game day withdrew from games to avoid match-day testing by Sports Integrity Australia (SIA). It was also claimed that the results of "off-the-books" tests before game day were not shared with SIA or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Pictured left Max Gawn and right Melbourne Demons players
Max Gawn said he was "taken aback" by the allegations that Demons players had been alleged to have faked injuries and withdrawn from games to avoid match-day testing. Image: Getty

On Wednesday the AFL confirmed it was fully aware of a secret testing operation as they had designed the system to stop players from potentially testing positive for a banned substance when being tested by Sport Integrity Australia agents. The AFL said urine tests are done by doctors at the club's premises or in the doctor's consulting rooms before matches or training sessions. They also revealed if the test shows an illegal substance in the player's system the doctor will "take steps to prevent a player from taking part in either training and/or an AFL match both for their own health and welfare and because having illicit substances in your system on match day may be deemed performance enhancing".

Speaking about the bombshell revelation, Gawn said he was "taken aback, surprised and slightly angry" by it all. "In the last 24 hours, I've gone from angry and surprised to (the thought that) I like that doctor’s step in at strike one," Gawn told Triple M's Marty Sheargold Show on Thursday.

"I think that's a great thing about our policy. We're there to help rather than to scapegoat. I get there might be people taking the piss within this, but if we're catching the majority that need the help… We're helping them by having a policy because a lot of our codes don't have a policy at all in this space."

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon on Wednesday said the code was unapologetic about the policy - created in 2005 - aimed at protecting the welfare of players. "We are unapologetic about club and AFL doctors taking the correct steps to ensure that any player who they believe has an illicit substance in their system does not take part in any AFL match and that doctor-patient confidentially is upheld and respected," he said.

"The medical interests and welfare of players is a priority for the AFL given everything we know about the risks facing young people generally and those who play our game in particular."

Max Gawn says he'd be amazed if the 'fake injury' allegations are true

Wilkie sent the Aussie sports scene into a spin after describing the "deeply troubling allegations of egregious misconduct within the AFL" from Arain, Bartlett and Smith as credible and detailed. Amongst the allegations was asking a player to 'fake an injury'.

"If there are no illegal drugs in the player's system they are free to play, and if there are drugs in their system the player is often asked to fake an injury," Wilkie said. "They are advised to lie about a condition, while the ­results of the off-the-book tests are kept secret and are never shared with Sports Integrity Australia or WADA."


When pressed on the allegation that players are being instructed by their clubs to fake injuries if they tested positive for illicit substances, the AFL CEO refused to comment on specifics, stating that it involves "private medical information". But Gawn finds it hard to believe such a thing could take place at his club or at any club in the AFL.

"I'd be very amazed if there's the whole injury fake injury thing," Gawn said. "I can't see it happening at our club. I'm trying to wrap my head around an incident where someone was out for a week, and I just can't see it."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17:  Angus Brayshaw of the Demons talks to players in the huddle during the round one Demons AFL match between Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on March 17, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
The Melbourne Demons captain says he would be 'amazed' if the fake injury reports are true. (Quinn Rooney via Getty Images)

Carlton coach Michael Voss also was taken aback by claims players were faking injuries, stating he was surprised by the allegations as he has never felt a player had been out of the match day team with a fake injury. "In terms of any doubt on player availability, I have never had that,” he said.

"I sit well and truly in the same basket: We’re all really surprised and somewhat disappointed with where it currently lies. Now it’s up to the AFL and the AFLPA to review what that looks like and what the best steps are moving forward for us … it has been a little surprising how it’s all unfolded.” Both the AFL and the AFLPA have committed to a review of the illicit drugs policy.