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Pert gets AFL to focus on illicit drugs
By Roger Vaughan
18:24 AEST Wed Nov 28 2012

Concerns about "volcanic behaviour" from some players in the off-season helped prompt Collingwood boss Gary Pert to put the AFL focus back on illicit drugs.

The Magpies chief executive is behind an AFL forum in January that will involve the 18 clubs and focus on players' use of illicit drugs, which he calls the biggest issue in the game.

He pointed to former players and self-confessed drug addicts Ben Cousins and Gavin Crosisca, plus the massive damage that the Lance Armstrong doping scandal has done to cycling, as examples of why the AFL must refocus on the problem.

Pert said there was no doubt that once players had time away from the rigid day-to-day structure at their clubs, the risk became greater that some would be tempted to take illicit drugs.

"There's volcanic behaviour ... there's definitely a concern that's been raised to all of the club CEOs and the AFL are very aware of this," Pert said.

"By the nature of the disciplines we put in place for the players ... at times, especially during the off-season or when we have breaks, (they) are deemed the highest-risk times.

"Having that sort of knowledge and being aware of it helps the clubs and helps the AFL deal with that."

Pert raised the issue last week at the annual club chief executives' conference on the Gold Coast, held the day before the national draft.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou agreed that the game needed to be mindful of the added temptations for players once they were on leave.

"They are meticulous in their preparation, almost to the point of a fanatical obsession to be the best, to win, and that permeates through the club," Demetriou told the AFL website.

"And then what happens to our players, as young men, once they're on their break?

"It's a release for them, and we need to think about that - that they're so structured in that 10 months, and when they're not at the club they can be vulnerable.

"It involves binge drinking, for example, it involves behavioural issues. It can perhaps involve illicit drugs."

Pert stressed he fully backs the AFL's illicit drugs policy and its controversial "three strikes" provision.

That policy, which the players voluntarily accept, has been in place since 2005 and is separate to the league's standard anti-doping regime.

But he wants clubs to have a more co-ordinated approach to the illicit drugs issue.

"I'm not here as part of a witch hunt for players in any particular club ... and I don't have the answers," Pert said.

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley agreed that the AFL and its clubs had to keep working on the issue.

"As a dad and as a coach and as a member of society in general, I'm concerned about it," he said.

"The illicit drugs policy the players agreed to a number of years ago is in place. Is it the best it could be? Potentially, that's what I think we're talking about."


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