Since the end of the 2015 season, a new testing regimen that tests AFL players’ hair for illicit drug use has revealed that the issue is far more widespread than had been anticipated.
Fourteen AFL clubs have tested every player. The other four have tested approximately three-fourths of their players.
Hair testing will show the presence of drugs for far longer than blood or urine testing.
The higher number of detections was partially due to the players being tested after the post-season break and after the holidays. Another factor is that hair testing will find even tiny amounts of drugs that other methods might miss.
The AFL is paying for approximately half of the tests; the clubs will need to foot the bill for the remainder if they choose to test every player.
The interesting aspect of the hair-testing regimen is that clubs are only informed of the number of detections; player identity remains confidential.
For players, a positive hair test will lead to increased scrutiny from urine tests. There are no consequences at present for a positive test discovered via hair testing other than more frequent urine tests during the season.
The 2016 season could well feature more than a few footy players adopting the hairless look favoured by swimmers and cyclists.