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Positive test reveals AFL has a new drug problem


Collingwood’s Sam Murray remains embroiled in a kind of standoff with ASADA, which offered him a lengthy penalty – less than the maximum of four years, but long enough to prompt the half-back flanker to refuse to accept the deal. Like Crossley, his positive test was to cocaine.

Murray’s case is expected to go to an AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal relatively soon. Whereas Crossley is saying he didn’t knowingly take the drug, Murray’s explanation is yet to be aired. What can be safely asserted is that he will argue he didn’t take cocaine on game day, which – presumably – means the substance was taken for kicks, not to help him get them on the field.

Crossley, thus, is the fourth AFL player – and first non-Collingwood footballer – to have run foul of ASADA’s testers since 2015 as a result of taking what is purported to be cocaine. Lachlan Keeffe and Josh Thomas tested positive to clenbuterol – a bona fide performance-enhancer (in or out of competition) – but their widely accepted explanation was that they took cocaine and that the drug was laced with the banned agent.

So, it turns out that, excepting the Essendon saga, the AFL’s obvious visible problem in doping is the use of cocaine, leading to either a match-day positive after the line lingers in the system for days, or – as in Keeffe and Thomas’ case – the drug being contaminated with something that can be used to cheat.

While comparisons might be drawn with swimmer Shayna Jack, who also hasn’t explained (yet) how the banned agent entered her system, Crossley and Murray are unfortunate to be in a window when the game-day detection of certain illicit drugs is treated as cheating.

WADA is looking to change the rules and penalties for what it calls “substances of abuse”. Under the potential change, positives to cocaine – and some other illicit drugs – would receive bans of to three months; in effect, WADA would be recognising that some illicit drugs (some can be performance-enhancing in competition) don’t help the athlete to perform.

This change, mooted for early 2021, might be too late for Murray and, depending on what evidence he can muster, for the young Sun.

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