The AFL’s (WADA compliant) AntiDoping Policy is a Restraint of a Player’s Trade in relation to Illicit Drug Use

November 9, 2017

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In 2005, after considerable pressure from the Federal Government, the Australian Football League (AFL) agreed to adopt the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) Code. This came into effect in the 2006 AFL season.

There was substantial opposition to the new WADA Code from both the AFL and the AFL Players’ Association. One reason was that the AFL already had an effective Anti Doping Code of its own in place. A second was that the AFL had implemented at the beginning of 2005 its own Illicit Drugs Policy (IDP).

Given that the AFL already had its own framework for dealing with drug infringements, a framework based on long and careful research, the need for the WADA Code was questionable. In some respects, the AFL’s own IDP was tougher than the WADA Code: it operates 44 weeks per year. The WADA Code is designed only for ‘incompetition’ infringements.

Ultimately, as the WADA Code will be applied to AFL football, the question is its legality in certain circumstances. This paper questions whether any suspension of an AFL player for taking recreational drugs in circumstances where there will be no performance benefit can be defended as lawful. There are good reasons to think that any such suspension will be an unlawful restraint of a player’s trade as an AFL footballer.

This paper also argues that the WADA Code is out of touch with community standards and expectations in relation to minor drug offences. Rather than naming and shaming the individual, community trends are towards rehabilitation and counseling, ensuring that the individual gets help to resolve the drug issue and returns to being a positive community member. Wherever possible, conducting this process confidentially is the most beneficial method for all concerned.

Please contact Paul if you require further details of the issues raised in this article. It is an executive summary of a 10,000 word paper he has written on this topic which will be published in the Monash University Law Review In May, 2007.