DRUGS in footy. The Gold Coast hasn’t got a problem. The AFL is the one with the problem.

Former Sun Karmichael Hunt decided the game of golf was too boring for his liking and his methods to jazz it up a little have thrown his former club and teammates under one hell of a bus.

The Queensland authorities in a major sting charged many sports stars involved in illicit drugs, one being Hunt who in the legal process has allegedly named 12 Suns players as being active in the consumption of his cocaine in this most recent offseason.

It is a unique circumstance the Gold Coast footy club finds themselves in, a seemingly serious drug issue which questions the club’s integrity, professionalism and in some media circles relevance as a burgeoning franchise, all from the suspicion and charging of just one former player.

The Gold Coast are under the microscope for serious allegations of recreational drug use without as much as a ripple from the AFL’s own policy. Sure there may have been a strike or two given out in anonymity from the incidents in question but how are we to know?

For all we know none of the Suns players who may have dabbled in an eight ball whilst participating in a leisurely round of four ball where tested in a timeframe close enough to register a positive result.

Hair testing catches a user within three months of use however they don’t count as strikes against their name – the current process is to only target test them in-season that following year. To be caught in the offseason you need typical testing within 48 hours of use.

So the drug code is highly flawed and without predicting or speculating its every chance none of the dirty dozen implicated would have copped any form of repercussions. They are as good as invincible in the offseason.

Therefore the endless education and lecturing clubs can impose on these young men about the dangers of the substances that will often tempt can only do so much, the consequences in reality hardly discourage enough.

What’s worse though is the unconsciousness of the problem this lack of deterrence causes.

In society, Australian men aged between 18 and 30 who could be taking illicit drugs on weekends is as high as one in three, a stark and distressing statistic.

Now let’s play optimistic and suggest that the characters, the standards set by elite sporting clubs and the public nature of such a fall should the worst happen softens those numbers for AFL players.

Then again, high amounts of disposable income and a saturation period for release and recreation in the off season and the numbers might indeed still shock.

It’s these factors along with one other hidden from the topic de jour which needs to have AFL house on tenterhooks.

In the last 12 months the Gold Coast Suns for illicit drugs sit mid table for positive tests amongst all AFL clubs.

The exact ranking is not being made public but for argument’s sake let’s hypothetically place them at tenth, nine teams above and eight teams below.

Given that the anecdotal evidence from Hunt that is being taken at face value rather credibly by police and sporting journalists alike about the cocaine use by the Suns, the AFL would be hoping rather cynically that in the drug tests results they would be coming in as one of the worst.

Alas they do not. It’s frightening to think if any of the stories perpetuating illicit drug use from the hypothetical nine clubs registering more positive results than the Gold Coast ever became public.

Again, the scenario the Gold Coast find themselves in is peculiar and in some ways unfortunate. It took a state Royal Commission which ultimately led to leaked confidential police evidence making its way into the Murdoch Press for any of this to register an iota in the public sphere.

There was never any media on Ben Cousins until after the fact, never any media on Chris Mainwaring until it was far too late and given the raw stats and a hint of common sense there’s every chance at least one current footballer, probably a high-profile one at that, currently going through a horrid time with substance abuse and the media is none the wiser… until after the fact.

Drugs in the AFL have become a plague on the sport. Cousins really kicked things off, partially because of the nature of his habit and his fall alike, but also because his drug use was so severe yet nothing ever registered with the testing.

Essendon has carried on the very much unwanted momentum albeit with the performance enhancing variety. However, from a public relations perspective drugs are drugs, the story is so large it doesn’t matter so much if the substance in question aids ability or soothes the putting yips?

And whilst we think we’ve hit the media jackpot after Hunt’s little yarn to the constabulary that has one third of the Suns list in the gun, the ultimate concern is the story that isn’t being told, isn’t as obvious.

The Suns now come across as the most drug-riddled club, the one with the poorest culture and if you believe the real nay-sayers approaching the point of no return such is their plight.

Yet as aforementioned the numbers show they are bang in the middle for drug results compared to the rest of the league which raises two very harrowing possible conclusions.

The Suns are indeed as bad as currently commentated and the testing process and subsequent results are so defective the results aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, or, if the results are indeed accurate and credible, could you just imagine just how bad the problems must be, perfectly hidden of course, at the clubs registering the most?

Either way, this is going to get worse before it gets better. You ain’t seen nothing yet.


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