AFL: Alastair Clarkson says drug testing policy has right intentions

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Alastair Clarkson says the AFL has the right priorities in its drug testing regimen after the founding president of WADA accused the league of adopting “Soviet techniques”.

The North Melbourne coach backed the league and its medical experts to refine its drug policy in response to a blistering attack by anti-doping expert Dick Pound.

Pound on Tuesday likened the AFL’s covert drug testing program to East Germany’s infamous state-run doping program which spanned from the 1960s to 1980s, saying “it completely undoes the underlying rationale of clean athletes”.

Clarkson said he hadn’t heard the comments but argued the intention of the AFL with its policy had been “first class”.

“All I do know is the medical fraternity and the AFL are trying to put in place a system that protects the welfare of the player first and foremost,” he said.

“There’s always going to be criticism of the way you set up a policy like that, but the intent of the league and the players’ association and the medical group has always been first class.

“All I would say is ‘let’s back those people in’ … they know they’ve probably got to look at the policy and work out what they can do to make it better.

“I’m sure the medical fraternity, the players’ association and the AFL will make what tweaks are necessary to make it a really sound policy for us.”

Clarkson, whose Kangaroos are still searching for their first win of the season, said he didn’t want to comment further when asked about Pound’s call for police to investigate AFL players’ drug use.

“I think you’re better off leaving it to the gurus mate, I just coach a side, and I’m not doing that too well at the moment, so I’ll leave all that other stuff to the powers that be,” he said.

Clarkson said the Roos were focusing on strengthening their contested ball game after they were battered by Carlton’s Patrick Cripps-led midfield on Good Friday.

He said “strength in the contest” was one of the glaring gaps between North Melbourne and the competition’s best sides, as he was keen for George Wardlaw to go head-to-head with dual Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale when the Roos met Brisbane at Norwood on Friday.

“It’s a little bit of a tighter ground, so there’s probably likely to be more contested footy, which is going to make it tough because that’s a real strength of the Brisbane side,” Clarkson said.

“Once again, (we’ll) get some more evidence of where we’re at as a side – playing these really good sides at the start of the year gives you a really good feel for where you’ve got to get to.

“Wardlaw is probably likely to play at different stages on Lachie Neale this week. Lachie’s been playing for 10 years, George has played about 10 games, so it’s just great exposure for him.”

Clarkson said mature-age key forward Tyler Sellers was in the mix for a debut after Callum Coleman-Jones was ruled out for the rest of the season with a ruptured achilles.

Charlie Comben, who could also be recalled as a defender after playing as a backman in the VFL, and Hugh Greenwood were other options who could provide more support to Tristan Xerri as a back-up ruck.

The coach said the Roos had to be mindful of protecting Xerri’s body with a long season to come.

“(Xerri) has shouldered a big responsibility for us thus far … it’s not just about this game, we have to think about the whole season with him,” he said.

“It could be that he shoulders that really manfully for six or eight weeks but then halfway through the season he’s cooked.

“He’s making really, really good progress for us in the work that he’s done and we’ve just got to protect him from himself more than anything because he wants to do the work.”