AFL Industry Education

Hair Testing a Major Refinement

Brett BurtonAFL Players Association vice-president Brett Burton says the introduction of hair testing is a key refinement to the AFL's illicit drugs policy, which he believes has the players' best interests at heart.  

"We weren't silly enough to think that AFL players being mostly between the ages of 18 to 30 weren't perhaps [capable of] making bad decisions and also going down that track," Burton said of the initial formulation of the policy.

"The hair testing is just another refinement to the policy. All our decisions are based on the information that we get from medical experts and we've seen that the off-season period is probably a high risk area for footballers.

"The testing that we've done over the last few years has indicated that almost half of the positive tests have occurred in the off-season period.

"In going back to the medical experts and speaking to them, we thought it was really important that we addressed this. The hair testing is one method to implement that testing and let's see if we can address that issue as well."

Burton said the AFL's strategy with regard to illicit drugs had the full backing of the AFLPA despite criticism from some quarters, but he admitted to some frustration at not being able to point to some examples of its effectiveness.

"From the AFLPA's point of view that is frustrating for us because we can't just wheel a player out and say 'look here's someone that we've rehabilitated and they're going along really well now', because of, obviously, the confidentiality of it," he said.

"When you speak to the medical experts that's why they suggest that rehabilitation and keeping information confidential is the best way to go about it because naming and shaming isn't the best way to go abut helping anyone.

"As AFL players we're obviously role models so we wanted to send a message to the wider community, but also look after our fellow teammates.

"We train hard, we work hard, we play hard against each other and we want to look after each other's health and welfare.

"We're like a football family and to look after each other is certainly a key message as well."

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