AUSTRALIA’S leading sporting bodies, including the AFL, are pushing for marijuana to be removed from the international list of performance-enhancing drugs. The bodies will meet World Anti-Doping Agency director-general David Howman in Sydney tomorrow and are expected to push a view that marijuana should not be treated as a banned match-day substance. Australia’s Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports – which includes the AFL, the NRL, Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia – has a view that while cannabis is dangerous, it should not be treated as performance enhancing. AFL football operations boss Adrian Anderson confirmed the AFL’s preference would be to have cannabis removed from WADA’s list of banned match-day performance-enhancing drugs, which the AFL observes. The removal of cannabis would also be welcomed by the AFL Players Association, which fought vigorously seven years ago against the AFL’s decision to adopt WADA’s rules on the drug. The AFL will continue to test for cannabis even if the push is successful, because it comes under the league’s controversial three-strikes illicit drugs policy, for which it does out-of-competition testing. Rugby league and cricket have also adopted separate procedures for cannabis. ”We came into line with WADA on marijuana, although we feel as a sport we have a dedicated program to deal with marijuana which we agree is a very dangerous substance leading to major health problems including mental health,” Anderson said. ”[But] if it remains on the list, then we will continue to support WADA.” Under the world code, athletes testing positive to cannabis on match days face bans of up to two years, although in recent times the heftiest bans have been three months with some first offenders receiving warnings.
WADA chief David Howman confirmed that the issue – which saw the AFL at loggerheads with both WADA and the federal government seven years ago – was part of a wider review that would reach its conclusion next year. ”Everything is up for debate every year when it comes to the banned list,” Mr Howman said. ”This year the code itself is also up for review and that’s what’s on the agenda in Sydney.” To remain on the WADA banned list a substance must qualify under two of the three categories: performance enhancing; dangerous to an athlete’s health or contrary to the spirit of sport. Mr Howman said the criteria were being scrutinised and, should they change, cannabis could fall from the list. Mr Howman, who held talks in Melbourne last week with AFL bosses Anderson and Andrew Demetriou, along with the game’s integrity boss Brett Clothier, described the AFL as a ”world leader” in its fight against performance-enhancing drugs through its recently ramped-up intelligence and anti-corruption programs. ”Many sports around the world are still talking about this, but they have actually done something in working with their clubs and their players and they’ve written a protocol while others haven’t yet. There are lessons for other international sports in the programs they have in place.” Back in 2005 the AFL was under fire from both WADA – whose then chairman Dick Pound described the league’s penalties for illicit drug use as “too soft – and the Federal Government putting at risk $3 million worth of funding.
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