Amateur athletes to get drug lessons

2015 Australian World Championship player Montana Farrah-Seaton in Chekhov, Russia. Photo courtesy Montana Farrah-Seaton.
Illicit drug education, a policy priority for all major parties, is now not just for professional athletes, writes Georgia Smith.

A country football president has welcomed a player drug education program, saying it would be stupid for him to assume the club has no illicit drug issues.

Wodonga Raiders Football Club president, Nic Conway, says, “Anything to do with drug education is a good tool to have.

“I’d be stupid to think that we don’t have issues within the club, the chances of not having issues would be very low.”

Federal Minister for Sport Sussan Ley says that what worries her most is that there is not enough support for amateur athletes if their lives fall apart due to drug use.

“They need to know that one false step, using illicit drugs, means that you could have wasted all of that effort and lose the things that you love most,” Ms Ley said in an interview.

The Government is now using an online interactive tool to tell the story of four young athletes whose lives were changed by illicit drugs, in an attempt to educate amateur sportspeople. It is an effort to address the issue of drugs in sport, in the wake of drug scandals in Australian sporting codes.

Cracking down on the use of drugs in sport and drug education is a priority for all major parties in the July election.

The Illicit Drugs in Sport Program is a free online resource set up in 2015 by the Department of Health’s National Integrity of Sport Unit, in partnership with the Australian Sports Commission. Country football clubs, such as the Wodonga Raiders, are among those it is trying to reach.

“At every footy ground across country Australian on the weekend, there are large numbers of men and women who have worked and trained and tried terribly hard and want to get to the next level,” said Ms Ley.

The program, with 150 participants enrolled to date, aims to educate not only athletes, but also coaches and officials in clubs through the interactive, multi-media program.

“It would be great to get the message out to as many people as possible,” said Mr Conway.

Champion basketballer Montana Farrah-Seaton, has seen first hand the education that elite sportspeople are given about illicit drugs.

“In every state team, national team or program that I was selected in, a representative from ASADA gave a lecture about the use of illicit drugs,” says Ms Farrah-Seaton, a 2015 Australian Women’s Under 19 Gem’s player.

Farrah-Seaton says that due to her illicit drug education through basketball, she knew from a young age the risks and consequences of drug use.

“I think illicit drugs are present in all sporting codes, but only a minority are using them, because most athletes know of the risks and consequences that follow.”

“It’s just so important that athletes see illegal drugs in the same way they see performance enhancing drugs, an absolute no-go zone,” said Ms Ley.

She also recognises the importance of drug education at an elite level, as these are the people amateur athletes are looking up to.

“The dumb actions of just one high profile sportsman can undo a lot of good drug prevention work in an instant,” she says.

“Successful sporting clubs talk about needing a good, healthy culture to succeed, and I would argue that a club with players who are using illicit substances has a culture that will ultimately send them to the bottom of the ladder,” said Ms Ley.