Some within the world of Olympic and amateur sports are questioning why their pursuits undergo rigorous drug testing compared to a relative lack of consistent testing in football.
Australia's football codes are under intense pressure to lift their game amid the debate sparked by last week's Crime Commission (ACC) revelations about the use of banned substances.
The ABC understands the average AFL or NRL player only gets tested once or twice a year, and then only if they are at the top level of the sport.
AUDIO: Calls for Olympic-style drug monitoring in football (PM)
That is different to amateur sports like swimming, in which, according to Swimming Australia, testing happens before every state, national and international meet.
Placegetters are then tested again, and competitors have to let authorities know their whereabouts so they can be tested randomly out of competition.
Peter Jess, a player manager who represents top-ranking AFL and NRL players, says the use of illegal performance enhancers in all codes of football is endemic.
He describes the level of testing in football codes as "manifestly inadequate".
"We've got to up the ante, we have to be serious about it, which means multiple testing, pre-game testing, and then we can get the message across," he said.
"If we want to have a game where people can cheat, then maybe we should hold two [competitions].
"If we're serious about it we should have pre-match testing, and anyone who has an elevated level of a banned substance at that point in time, they would be withdrawn, and that would really send a message to players."
Australian Swimmers Association president Brenton Rickard says swimmers are subjected to a much stricter regimen than their football counterparts.
"Once you get to that level of being an international swimmer and starting to represent your country, you just assume that half a dozen tests per year is pretty much the minimum," he said.
"Obviously they have a larger player group than we do, but at the same time I'd think you'd kind of expect the number [of tests for footballers] to be bigger than that."
The actual details of testing in the codes is kept largely secret.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) will not release any documentation or figures because it says those details could assist potential offenders.
The AFL and NRL say their testing - of just over 1,000 a year in AFL and just over 1,000 in NRL - is rigorous enough.
And that is supported by the former head of the Australian anti-doping agency, Richard Ings, who helped set up the system.
"Certain substances have certain windows of detection, and at the AFL the elite players are tested multiple times per year, and ASADA, if they have any intelligence, has the opportunity to target test, to actually do more testing on individual players," he said.
"This is not a testing issue.
"This is just pointing out the complex nature of fighting doping in sport and the need to investigate as well as test."
The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), John Fahey, agrees that more needs to be done by the football codes, in so far as testing is concerned.
Speaking from London, Mr Fahey said the recent ACC announcement illustrated there was a problem to be addressed.
"Having the minimum program doesn't necessarily get you to the root of your problem or the problem more generally," he said.
"And all of them can do more - it's a simple fact."
Mr Fahey says he wants to know why top football players are not being required to carry the sort of biometric passport employed by some other sports to provide a record of testing over time.
Author: Jeff Waters, Jennifer Browning and Josh Bavas, ABC News
Date: February 13, 2013
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