Source: The Australian
Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 1998
Authors: Andrew Ramsey and Brian Burke


MARIJUANA should not be included on the Australian Football League
list of banned substances even though five players have tested
positive to the drug this year, according to the league's leading
medical officer.

Dr Hugh Seward, president of the AFL Medical Officers' Association,
said that marijuana use was a social issue.

"It's not a performance-enhancing substance," Dr Seward said. "If
anything it would detract from athletic performance so it's not a
concern from a cheating point of view."

Professor Tim Stockwell, director of the National Centre for the
Research of Drug Abuse in Perth, supported the AFL stand, claiming it
was a moral issue.

"It's a controversial issue, but cannabis is not performance
enhancing," Professor Stockwell said.

"If the AFL was to punish players who tested positive to marijuana
would they consider banning players convicted of drunk driving, which
is arguably more dangerous to the community."

But the National Drugs and Research Centre said that the league
decision not to take action against the players involved was wrong
given that marijuana remained an illegal drug.

"The AFL is sending out a very damaging message to young people that
it's okay for some people to use marijuana but not okay for others,
and it's a message that's happening more and more," NDRC spokesman
Paul Dillon said.

Marijuana is listed as a class three prohibited substance by the
International Olympic Committee, which leaves individual sports
federations to decide whether they want to test for it.

An IOC task force was formed to consider whether marijuana should be
banned in the wake of the positive test by Canadian snowboarder Ross
Rebagliati at the Winter Olympics in Japan.

The AFL confirmed yesterday that five players, whose names and clubs
were not released, had tested positive to cannabinoids in the latest
round of screening conducted by the Australian Sports Drug Agency.

A spokeswoman for the AFL said that compared with two positive tests
in 1996 and one last year.

The spokeswoman said that the AFL had no plans to include marijuana on
its list of banned substances despite the latest results.

"With the number of positive tests that have come, and looking at that
in relation to its use in the general community, we don't see it as
widespread use among AFL footballers," the spokeswoman said.

Collingwood coach Tony Shaw said yesterday that he was opposed to
players using marijuana, and described smoking the drug for
recreational purposes as "totally unprofessional".

The AFL Players Association included the question of whether the drug
should be banned on a questionnaire circulated to members earlier this

Results of the survey are expected to be known in September.

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Checked-by: "Rich O'Grady"