Blog: Setting the record straight—ASADA and the AFL’s illicit drugs policy

30 June 2015

In today’s Adelaide Advertiser there was a report about the Australian Football League’s (AFL) illicit drugs policy. The story contained certain assertions and inferences about ASADA’s involvement with the AFL’s illicit drugs program that has led to confusion amongst readers.

The article reports that the AFL pays ASADA to run its illicit drugs program and three‑strike policy.

In fact ASADA is not involved in the design and implementation of the AFL’s illicit drugs program and three strike policy. Further, ASADA is not involved in the enforcement of the AFLs illicit drug policy.

The AFL’s illicit drugs program involves private contracted sample collection companies and is carried out independently from ASADA. ASADA is not generally informed of the outcomes of the illicit drug testing program and is certainly not specifically advised as to specific players testing positive to illicit substances.

ASADA’s role is to apply the World Anti-Doping Code (the Code) in Australia. The central aim of the Code is to prevent, detect and enforce breaches of anti-doping violations. This is to prevent athletes from having an unfair advantage over their opposition by using performance-enhancing substances. The Code does not replicate the criminal law in relation to policing the use of illicit drugs as opposed to performance-enhancing substances. That said, under the Code, if a player is found to have a prohibited stimulant (such as cocaine), which is also classed as performance‑enhancing, present in their system on match-day, they may face an anti-doping rule violation.  

ASADA conducts its testing program in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code’s International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI). This means that ASADA selects athletes for testing and decides when and where testing takes place without direction from the sport.

The AFL, like a number of other sports, contracts ASADA to conduct user-pays testing for performance-enhancing substances. This testing is conducted as per the ISTI and is not associated with the AFL’s illicit drugs testing program. ASADA determines which players are tested for performance-enhancing substances under this program.