Recreational drugs will always follow athletes who have too much disposable income and too much time on their hands. The consequences have been devastating, as AFL players like Ben Cousins and Mathew Stokes know all too well.

Cats player Mathew Stokes outside Geelong police station after drug charges were laid in February. Photo: Mike Dugdale

Last week the AFL revealed that 14 players tested positive to illicit drugs last year. The drugs detected included cocaine, ice and ecstasy – known party drugs.

The drug test results generated massive online debate and according to a Herald Sun online poll, 76 per cent of people believe footballers who test positive should be named and shamed.

The sad fact of life is that AFL drug results are just a tip of the iceberg. There are obviously more athletes – and AFL players – who are dabbling in recreational drugs but they are smart enough to avoid getting caught.

It’s easy for footballers to access party drugs. They have time to party, they have the spare cash and they often looking for a rush. If they can’t get a rush on the field, they will look for another rush off the field. Unfortunately, drugs are an easy answer.

There are strict club rules for players who mess with drugs. Not only are they cheating themselves, they are cheating their clubs and the people who mean the most to them.

Stokes, who made a commendable return to Geelong’s line-up on Saturday night, has desperately tried to turn his life around since being caught with a gram of cocaine earlier this year. Stokes said his actions were “silly, stupid and senseless”.

Curiosity killed the Cat. In The AFL’s case, curiosity killed the Cat or Dog or Eagle or whoever weakens the most.

It’s not even worth being tempted by drugs, for the sake of curiosity or being cool. Many young people will experiment with drugs. But some get hooked, for whatever psychological reason is behind their addiction.

Football clubs do their best to keep players busy and their minds ticking. They help out with clinics, work part-time or dabble in public speaking.

Peer pressure seems to be the overwhelming force in illegal drug use.  It’s often outside the clubs’ control when things go haywire.

At the end of the day, the athlete is responsible for his/her choices. They cannot blame boredom or having too much money or being part of the crowd. Only the conscience can overpower choices in drug use. It comes down to character and willpower.

Naming and shaming the players can help curb recreational drug use among athletes. It could be the answer to reducing positive test results.

Most commented


Show oldest | newest first

    • Shame game says:

      09:03am | 17/05/10

      We must name and shame them. How will they ever learn?

    • Sky says:

      10:05am | 17/05/10

      I agree completely. If there are no consequences (a fine isnt a consequence with the money they make) they will keep doing the same thing. Make the punishment harsh and that will in most cases keep them in line.

    • Dwest says:

      10:49am | 17/05/10

      And publicly lynch them in the media!

      Funny notion prohibitions - lets keep pretending they work!

    • Troubled says:

      09:26am | 17/05/10

      Those guys work so hard to get there and then get caught up in the partying culture. Stupid, stupid!! It’s a common pattern. Success, alcohol, drugs, women and trouble.

    • Henry S says:

      10:10am | 17/05/10

      The Afl should name them if they want to wipe out illicit drugs. Simple.

    • Weakness says:

      10:12am | 17/05/10

      For gods sake, stop paying them so much! Never used to happen.

    • Mike says:

      02:24pm | 17/05/10

      What a ridiculous statement. It has always been a part of society and in football. There is just more scrutiny on it now.

    • Kelly says:

      10:22am | 17/05/10

      I’ve always been of the opinion that drug users with money somehow think they are different from a street junkie. But to the drug dealers they are just a customer with more money to spend, and they help to perpetuate the drug trade and all the other crime that goes hand in hand with it, like murder, robbery and corruption. Acually I see them as no different, actually more pathetic because they should know better.

    • BTS says:

      10:46am | 17/05/10

      Exactly Kelly and when I said the same thing in the blog about Cassie Vaicekonis a few of the junkies were somewhat out of sorts and offended that they be lumped into the same category.  ‘I am wealthy, I only use drugs on weekends, I am no junkie!’

      Some personal reflection, perhaps in front of the mirror, might be in order.

    • Dan says:

      04:15am | 18/05/10

      Kelly, they don’t ‘help to perpetuate the drug trade and all the other crime that goes hand in hand with it, like murder, robbery and corruption.’ Perhaps there wouldn’t be any crime is drusg were legalised.

      Regarding this topic, the AFL players are private citizens, and considering that we are talking about illicit, and not performance-enhancing, drugs, they should be treated like anybody else. No-one else gets ‘named and shamed.’ Nor should they.

    • George says:

      10:22am | 17/05/10

      Putting stokes in work is the best thing Geelong did. They need to keep occupied during the day and also feel valued in the workplace.

    • stephen says:

      10:50am | 17/05/10

      Throw the book at’em. (The one that says ” you have the right to remain silent. Whatever you say or do…”)

    • Dan says:

      04:30am | 18/05/10

      Just like everyone else? Except that most drug users, unless they committ a crime, don’t have the book thrown at them.

    • Greek Snake says:

      11:15am | 17/05/10

      It’s a shame how these players get pigeon-holed into playing the role-model part.

      How the AFL expects players, who are selected by their on-field talents, NOT their off-field behavior, to suddenly become saints is beyond me.

      Yes they are paid a lot of money, but they are paid to play football. It seems we care more about players off-field antics than their on-field performance. Someone leading a party life, on drugs every second day and deprived of sleep will most definitely start to fail on-field.

      Punish the players for performance enhancing drugs, but stop expecting them to be saints. AFL has long been associated with being a bloke, being rough around the edges and all things alcohol and bogans. So how then, when categorised as such, do we expect the players to be perfect role-models? Absolute rubbish. Start judging players on their on-field performance, their football abilities and their loyalty to their clubs and members, not on who they shagged or what they snorted last Saturday night.

      It is a shame this game hasn’t taken off globally, then Mr Demetriou and his pack of pansies could no longer ask players to jump through hoops just to be employed. Then again, AFL lacks too much to become a global game.

    • JK says:

      11:46am | 17/05/10

      My my, so many superiority complexes here. I reckon good odds on a few of em’ being bible thumpers.

      There is a difference between an addict and recreational user, just as there is a difference between alcoholics and social drinkers, gambling addicts and casual betters etc etc. But careful folks, this conclusion requires logic and of course the use of your brain.

      Looks like some people are trying to justify their own vices and habits by vilifying others. How amusing.

      Ironically some who possess this mindset are often addicted to legal prescriptions and think that somehow exempts them!

      But go ahead, advocate a ‘tougher stance’ by the AFL. You all would have no problem under going piss tests at your place of work/education right?

    • ben says:

      11:52am | 17/05/10

      Every person, famous sporting hero or not, deserves their privacy. In the case of the AFL privacy comes second to fairness, and players must be screened for performance enhancing drugs. What they do in their own time is their own business.

    • Bill says:

      11:57am | 17/05/10

      If you get a postive result in a normal job it is kept confidential, as it should be. AFL players are employees too so why should they be publicly humiliated? AFL players are answerable to the law just like anyone else, to lose employment/be publicly humiliated as well are effectively extra punishments. Neither have I ever understood how public humiliation is good for the rehabilitation of a drug addict.

      It comes down to people being more interested in punishing a player rather than trying to help them (and this is the same attitude society seems to have toward all drug users, no matter the profile)

    • BTS says:

      12:01pm | 17/05/10

      I wonder why we hold them up as role models to begin with?  I think it says something about poor parenting skills if you hold up footballers as some kind of role model to you and your kids.

      While they’re on field, let them peform for the masses, once they’re off field let them be as normal as the rest of society.

    • facepalm says:

      01:09pm | 17/05/10

      Footballers are not much more than overpaid buffoons - is it really a surprise they’re a bunch of junkies, drunks and good-for-nothing troublemakers off the playing field? The antics of AFL and NRL players are by no means unique to their respective codes - all professional sports (how I gag at that term) are filled with such nuisances.

    • Tails says:

      01:09pm | 17/05/10

      I’m against them naming individuals. Eventually, the hysteria leads to intrigue and soon enough, they’re issuing a teary apology, trying to get back into the good books.
      They should name everyone who has tested positive for drugs all at once. The mass message will hammer the point, you’ll get your naming and shaming, but the individuals will be sort of sheltered by the crowd.
      As a result the drug issue will be seen as a problem amongst a group of people, not a small number of individuals. Hopefully it will get taken more seriously, and then hopefully, kids will learn to make better choices.

    • Mark says:

      01:28pm | 17/05/10

      I dont care what the players do in their own time as long as they dont hurt anyone else, same go’s for any other member of society. If someone thinks they can use drugs and still be competitive at top level go for it, the only person you will harm is yourself and your career and remember many people would have to work 6-7 years to come close to one years players salary, if players wont to throw that away for a 3 hour drug hit…welll footy players never were that smart were they

    • Matt says:

      02:46pm | 17/05/10

      What does it matter if a player uses drugs that are not performance-enhancing? If they take drugs, it’ll catch up with them, stuff up their performance, just as heaps of grog would. No name, no shame. Would you name and shame lawyers, doctors, journalists, plumbers, check-out chicks who test positive to drugs like coke and ecstacy? Put everyone’s name up in lights who tests positive. Check out whose blood had drugs in it at Yahoo. That’ll be handy. Then you’d have to list who has too much nicotine and alcohol, and who has other harmful substances like fat and cholestorol.

      And this Julie ... hmmmm .... dunno how long you thought this one over but ... : “If they can’t get a rush on the field, they will look for another rush off the field. Unfortunately, drugs are an easy answer.”

      The rush from playing a game of footy and the rush of snorting cocaine are so different as to be on different planets. And if you get a rush on the footy field, why wouldn’t you want to get another one by taking ecstacy, then getting another from making love to someone possibly also on ecstacy.

      Footy players take illegal recreational drugs on the weekends the same reason everyone takes illegal recreational drugs on the weekends. Because it makes them feel good. And because they can. Footy players no different from plumbers. Everyone has the time and the money and the inclination.


    • dava says:

      02:56pm | 17/05/10

      i think they should ditch all testing and let it pan out naturally. If the athletes want to take performance enhancing drugs to play better that should be their choice. Greater glory - shorter life. they know the risks, weighed against the benefits.

      if ‘sports drinks’ enhance performance should they be banned? I don’t see what all the fuss is about?

    • Julian says:

      04:53pm | 17/05/10

      Drugs that are damaging to the players health must be policed. There must be rules , if not a player could OD and die

    • Mark says:

      07:29pm | 17/05/10

      What a hypocritical country Australia is. Did you know, per capita, we are one of the biggest consumers of illegal drugs in the world? This country is popping pills and snorting powder like few others, then we turn around and claim these athletes have too much money and time? Do you know why there is such a drug supply in this country? Because there is such a demand from the everyday population. Spare me the lectures on the evils of drugs until this country actually does something about it. We under resource our police and border control, yet we will build a white elephant stadium for hundreds of millions of dollars with no second thought.

    • Arios says:

      07:52pm | 17/05/10

      Australia’s drug use is one of the highest in the world, we are world leaders in drug use, which disgusts me.

      In Japan, you should see how much the collective media name/shame crims and people caught doing anything which is deemed unhealthy/dangerous or plain stupid. The stuff we see on Japanese TV is absolutely astonishing and would never be aired in Australia. They often also get them in front of a microphone and simply leave the camera rolling on them for like 10-20 minutes, while they are balling with tears and let them try to apologise or explain whatever, but the camera doesn’t stop rolling and the TV show just stays focused on the person who made the mistake for so long to deliberately humiliate them, so the rest of the country sees. I actually reckon it works really well.

      E.g. 4 guys attempted to climb mt Fuji in the middle of winter (which is an absolutely stupid thing to do, despite all the warnings, they still did it). 3 of them died, there was one survivor. So they filmed the survivor balling his eyes out for like 20 mins and explaining how he deserted his friends and was an idiot and what a stupid decision he made etc. The camera never left him for like 20 mins and families across the country watched it at around dinner time etc.

      Another example was the actress busted with ecstacy. A huge deal here and ecstacy still pretty rare. Well didn’t she cop the super humiliation treatment on all forms of media for months.

      I reckon they have it right, there is a huge focus on families over here.

      I still don’t understand why so many Aussies get into drugs, we have one of the most beautiful countries in the world, we have so much opportunity. Do we just have the dumbest population? I think so.. Are they too overzealous and curious without enough common sense and respect for themselves? I think so.

    • Matt says:

      09:15am | 18/05/10

      In the magical land of Utopia there would be no mind-bending drugs, and people wouldn’t want to get off on them.

      But there are and there are.

      Border control? Tougher penalties? Yeah, that hasn’t been tried for the last thirty years with zero effect. Indonesia has tougher penalties, that’s why Shappelle’s in jail and old mate lost his foreskin.

      Digressing a tad from Julie’s Athletes Get In Strife Because They Have Cash and Time-Off (which, for mine, is a fairly good sized lump of bullshit).

      But the argument: Drugs Are Bad And You Are BAd If You Take Them doesn’t wash.

      If drugs were so bad people wouldn’t want to consume them. Very few people are masochists. Most people leave the self-flagellation for the Holy Rollers Going To Heaven Because They’ve Been Good, and take the drugs because they make them feel good.

      It is that simple.

      Yes, there are side-effects. Drugs are an emotional and physical credit card that gives short-term gratification but takes away, and charges interest. Long-term heavy users are rarely happy functioning human beings.

      But recreational weekend users of E and coke and whatever - and this isn’t just footballers, but everyone - can and do function, and generally do not get in strife.

      The only strife footy players get in is if they get hauled up in front of the media as old mate was suggesting we do as they do in Japan, giving celebrities and idiots Shock Therapy so they won’t do it again.

      Top stuff.

    • Leigh says:

      10:56am | 18/05/10

      Confidentiality when it comes to possitive drug tests is very important.  I’ll bet a pound to a penny that major mining firms would not publically oust thier employees who fail a drug “sceening” test (which by the way tests for substance present, not impairment).  This is becuase the main concern is not the punitive side, its the rehabilitation side.  I am always surprised when i read stuff like this, when there are so many people hooked on tobacco, caffine and gambling addcitions.  it’s just becuase these guys are elite sportsmen and the drugs are not the above mentioned that we jump down thier throats and expect to know the ins and outs of thier privater lives.  Piss off and get a life people.  Another case of Australian Tall Poppy Syndome (which is a virus in our society).

    • Steve says:

      03:34pm | 18/05/10

      Everyone is missing the elephant in the room. Where are all the Golfer’s coked off their face?  Why aren’t there Netballers getting busted with ecstasy?  Why aren’t Race Car drivers racing stonned….?

      Why are ONLY FOOTBALLERS doing this crap?!?  Who ever thinks these guys are good role models are kidding themselves!

      Having said that, the UN has been saying for the past 20years we have the highest per capita Drug Use in the world.  Your more likly to get stonned in Brisbane than Amsterdam (which has weed Café‘s) ... So I guess the reality is it should be expected.  The law means nothing, it’s the culture that surrounds us.


Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more



Read all about it

Sign up to the free newsletter