Drug use in the Australian football league: a critical survey

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Stewart, Bob, Smith, Aaron C. T and Dickson, Geoff (2008) Drug use in the Australian football league: a critical survey. Sporting Traditions: the journal of the Australian society for sports history, 25 (1). pp. 57-74. ISSN 0813-2577


The Australian Football League (AFL), which arose of an expanded Victorian Football League competition in 1991, has become the most commercialised sports league in the nation. By 2007 it was attracting an annual attendance of more than seven million fans, and annual turnover had exceeded $280 million. At the same time its very success established the ideal conditions for drug use. First, it provided an ultra-competitive and hyper-masculine environment where high–risk behaviour was lauded and the rewards for winning were significant. Second, the game became scientised and medicalised as a bevy of coaches, physicians, psychologists, trainers, and dieticians assisted players to secure a winning edge over their opponents. Finally, the pharmaceutical industry introduced new drugs to the marketplace, many of which built strength, improved endurance, heightened awareness, and generally made people feel better. These developments raise two salient questions. Firstly, how prevalent has drug-use been in the AFL, and secondly, what has the AFL done about it? This article aims to answer these two questions by mapping the evolution of the AFL’s drug policies through an examination of critical incidents and cases. Although there has been an extensive analysis of the game’s social and commercial development over the last 25 years,5 there has been no examination of drug use in elite Australian Rules football competitions.

Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/3975
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 370000 Studies in Human Society
Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 1605 Policy and Administration
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Centre for Ageing, Rehabilitation, Exercise & Sport Science (CARES)
Keywords ResPubID16354, Australian Football League (AFL), drug use, hyper-masculine environment, high–risk behavior, drugs to build strength, endurance and awareness, AFL drug policies
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