Drug advice not clear, players say

The AFL Players Association has lamented "the lack of clarity available" to parties seeking advice about substances or methods from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

After Fairfax Media reported this week that there was a push for a new, national anti-doping advisory service, and that the information ASADA provided to athletes through existing services sometimes came across as confusing and legalistic, AFLPA boss Ian Prendergast voiced support for more user-friendly resources.

The call to supersede ASADA's telephone advice service, and "check your substances" online tool, with an improved model is being led by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale who has said ASADA's dual role of policing suspect activity while also acting as an adviser and educator to sportspeople was fundamentally flawed.

The senator, who is a former VFA footballer, doctor and drug counsellor, said some sporting figures had been cautious about – and even deterred from – approaching ASADA for fear it may reflect poorly on their clubs and potentially incriminate individuals. Di Natale's claim that ASADA's advice could sometimes be confusing and problematic for athletes has now been indirectly supported by the AFLPA.

"We would welcome any improvements to education and user-friendly information for athletes, particularly given the lack of clarity available under the current scheme," Prendergast said.

Prendergast, the AFLPA player relations manager, would not say whether he was aware of footballers who had felt reluctant to approach ASADA with questions due to uncertainty of the consequences, however some athletes reportedly have feared merely asking ASADA a question about a particular substance could trigger target testing.

ASADA rejected criticism of its information services on Friday, saying it "provides athletes, support personnel and sports with accurate and clear information about the status of medications, substances and methods in sport".

While adding it is "constantly aiming to improve the way it communicates with athletes", ASADA said it had received no official complaints about its advice being unclear or confusing.

"We have no formal record of complaints from athletes and associated sporting figures relating to this issue. If you can provide specific details we can look at addressing any identified issues. Independent research indicates that the 86 per cent of athletes, support personnel, and sports are satisfied with the programs and services that ASADA provides."

Meanwhile, Prendergast described the outcome of a Senate inquiry into sports science as "a missed opportunity to introduce standards into an otherwise unregulated industry". The report was tabled on Tuesday and contained just four recommendations that the participants agreed upon, mostly related to ethics in sport.

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