Former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt. Picture: Daniel Wilkins
Former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt. Picture: Daniel Wilkins

Drug use in AFL ‘out of control’: Riewoldt

ST Kilda great Nick Riewoldt says drug use in the AFL is "out of control".

Riewoldt on Monday rejected former coach Grant Thomas' claim that illicit substance abuse was rife while he was playing, but said it had skyrocketed since.

The former Saints captain said players were now taking advantage of a drug policy that was too soft.

"The issue that's come out of (Grant Thomas' comments) is what it's like now. Back then no, but now I would say, 'Yeah, absolutely, it's pretty out of control'," Riewoldt said.

"It's out of control now because players can. That's the way the policy is set up. The AFL, by their own admission, say the policy aims to identify AFL players who have substance abuse issues and places the necessary support around them to protect their health and wellbeing.

"The vast majority of players don't have abuse issues, they're just taking the piss out of the system.

"There's no recourse; there's no ramifications, so it's a free for all in the off-season."

Riewoldt, who retired in 2017, said players would continue to run the gauntlet until the illicit drugs policy bared its teeth.

Grant Thomas and Nick Riewoldt in 2004.
Grant Thomas and Nick Riewoldt in 2004.

"I know it's a voluntary policy and the AFLPA and the players can completely scrap it. It is world-leading because there's nothing else like it and I understand that," he said.

"If they're serious about getting the number closer to zero, remove the safety net. If players have a drug issue, then getting a four-match suspension on their first detection is probably the least of their worries because they need to sort their life out.

"Blokes are doing it because the systems allows them to get away with it. You're telling me if they're going to get a four week ban on their first detection they're going to do it? They're not going to do it because they know if they get caught they miss four weeks of footy and everyone is going to know about it.

"Here's where the system is a bit ridiculous. If a player goes out after a game, he's got a corkie and he goes out and has six beers, on Monday he'll be in front of the leadership group … and he might even miss a game of footy.

"But if you want to go out on the weekend and take drugs, no worries, go your hardest because the worst you're going to cop is a strike that no one knows about."

Asked if he had a solution, Riewoldt said: "I would have a suspension on the first detection, whatever it is. One week, two weeks, whatever.

Former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt. Picture: Daniel Wilkins
Former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt. Picture: Daniel Wilkins

"At the moment the deterrent is not strong enough."

Riewoldt said he immediately phoned Thomas after his revelation last week that a player told him drug use was "rife" during his time as coach.

"I said, 'Who was it?' He wouldn't tell me, but I've got a fair idea and I don't think that player could spell rife," he said.

"What I do know is that as far as my circle of friends … absolutely no way. There's no way that was going on."