AFL must employ integrity officers

AFL CHIEF executive Andrew Demetriou has urged clubs to employ their own integrity officers ahead of bolstering coaching panels in a bid to eradicate the problems similar to the supplement scandal that has engulfed Essendon.

Demetriou said the league planned to beef up its integrity unit following the release of the Australian Crime Commission report, which details investigations into performance-enhancing drugs and other illegal activities in sport in Australia, but called on clubs to use their own initiative.

''When you think about the high stakes in our game today, and you think about things like compliance with the salary cap, and you think about performance-enhancing drugs and things like gambling, it is very important every club thinks about having an integrity officer,'' Demetriou said during Channel Seven's summit on the drugs issue.

''You want to minimise the risks of these things happening, and if you can put someone in place who can help you minimise that risk and report up to your board, then that's far, far more important than investing in another coach, for example.

''Because one poor decision at a club can have dire, dire consequences.'' The AFL Commission will consider more initiatives to address illegal activity at its Monday meeting. Demetriou said the AFL spent about $850,000 on drug testing its players - through the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority - every year.

Although that figure is just a small fraction of the AFL's annual income, Demetriou said the league was at the forefront of fighting drugs in sport.

The league boss again refused to outline what contingency plans the AFL had in place should multiple Essendon players be suspended under the ASADA investigation, but said ''at this stage we've got nothing that indicates'' there would not be 18 teams in the 2013 season.

Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy was also on the defensive during the televised summit, over the timing of the release of the ACC report and its lack of specifics.

Former Geelong captain Cameron Ling, seated next to Ms Lundy, said the lack of detail had effectively damaged the reputation of every player. ''Every player who has played the game recently, every player who is currently playing the game is now, in a lot of people's eyes, guilty,'' he said.

Essendon and one player from one other AFL club are being investigated by ASADA for possible breaches of anti-doping codes.

Richmond midfielder Daniel Jackson, a member of the Players' Association executive, said it had been unfair to tarnish so many players.

''I've been around 10 years and I've never even heard talk of this before. Obviously there's an issue that's being addressed at the moment and I can't comment on the particulars, but I can say as a current player that our game is of the highest integrity,'' he said.

Ms Lundy said the ACC released its report because it was ready to do so, but conceded some innocent players might have been harmed.

''It's incredibly unfortunate because it's not true. The issue here is the one tarnishing the game are the cheats and the crims that are infiltrating and causing problems,'' she said.

''This report ought not to tarnish all of Australian sport. We have fantastic codes doing the best they can.''

Ling said he had been hurt by suggestions the Cats' premierships of 2007 and 2009 were tarnished because the club employed Dean Robinson, Essendon's high performance manager who has been stood down by the Bombers.

''I'd like to think the smart people out there will think that's not the case. Our procedures will stand up to anything, but unfortunately, there will be some people out there thinking 'Oh yeah, that's how Geelong won their premierships, they cheated','' he said.

This story AFL must employ integrity officers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.