The AFL has released a statement regarding reports in the Herald Sun claiming up to 11 players from the Collingwood Magpies had tested positive for illicit drugs over the off-season.
On Thursday night, Melbourne newspaper The Herald Sun reported a quarter of the Magpies team had tested positive for illicit drugs after hair tests. The report goes on to claim two other AFL clubs had returned "worse" drug test results than Collingwood, while "several other clubs" had similar results to the Magpies.
The league just last year instituted a new, harsher policy around illicit drugs.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire refuted the claims on the Footy Show on Thursday night, after having the allegations revealed to him on-air.
“[Friday] morning both the AFL and Collingwood football club will claim the figures are inaccurate,” McGuire said.
“Whether he’s got it wrong by five or four or three or 10. It doesn’t make a difference. There’s a big issue here that needs to be addressed.”
AFL football operations manager Mark Evans released a statement on Friday afternoon, saying the league had "informed" clubs about the results of hair testing, but that the results would not be made public.
"This is the first year of the policy’s operation, and I ask that the new policy be given a chance to be in operation and measured for its impact before we demand new changes," Evans said.
"The use of illicit drugs affects all sections of society, including AFL players, but testing results continue to indicate levels of use below the general public."
"The AFL remains committed to an Illicit Drugs policy that seeks to change behaviour, and penalise players whose behaviour doesn’t change."
AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh also asked the public to give the new policy some time to take effect, and criticised the report by saying such media attention would affect the league's ability to address illicit drugs.
"It would be good if there was some respect for what we’re trying to achieve here,” Mr Marsh told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
"It’s predictable that some people are going to be taking a stab at how many players may be testing positive.
"This new policy was agreed to late last year, it hasn’t even taken effect yet. Give it a chance."
Under the new AFL drugs policy, the league has a "two strikes" policy for illicit drug use among players; however, it is said hair tests do not count as a strike, and are recorded only for research purposes. Urine and hair-testing occurs year-round under the policy.
The new policy will see players "named publicly, fined and suspended for four matches if they record a second strike by testing positive to illicit drugs."