Joel Smith
Joel Smith has been provisionally suspended since October following a positive cocaine test. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

We don’t have a drug culture, says Demons football boss

Anna Harrington February 23, 2024

Melbourne football boss Alan Richardson insists the AFL club does not have a drug culture, despite the dramatic escalation of utility Joel Smith’s anti-doping case.

On Tuesday night, the AFL confirmed Sports Integrity Australia had charged Smith with three anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) of the Australian Football Anti-Doping Code over alleged “trafficking or attempted trafficking” of cocaine to third parties.

Smith has also been notified of another ADRV for possession of cocaine on September 9, 2022.

The 27-year-old has been provisionally suspended since October, when he was notified of a positive cocaine test following the Demons’ round-20 win over Hawthorn on August 20.

It is the latest flashpoint in Melbourne’s tumultuous off-season.

But when asked directly on SEN radio on Friday if Melbourne had a drugs culture, Richardson said: “No, we don’t. We’ve certainly had an incident with respect to Joel that’s still being investigated.

Alan Richardson
 Melbourne football boss Alan Richardson says the AFL club does not have a drug culture. Image by Brendon Thorne/AAP PHOTOS 

“We don’t get enormous information. At this stage they are still allegations and he and his legal team are working through that. 

“Our role with Joel is really almost at arm’s length from that perspective. It’s much closer in terms of supporting him.

“We’ve had a couple of issues. Certainly we’ve been working through some things with Clayton (Oliver), and I don’t want to go into too much detail there. 

“I think we all know that’s quite a unique case and (Oliver) has had some challenges and he’s going really well now.

“It’s been great to be able to work so closely with (Oliver’s manager) Paul Connors and his team to make sure we get Clayton back on track, and whilst there’s still a bit of work to do, that’s going well.

“But no, we don’t (have a drug culture).”

Richardson conceded it was difficult to “ever be certain” there weren’t drug issues because of a lack of information about players provided to clubs.

“I’ve worked at eight footy clubs, so I can really confidently say to you ‘no, we don’t have a problem’,” he said.

“Have we had some challenges? Yes. Will we continue to have some challenges? Yes we will, as will every footy club. 

“We’ve got 45 young blokes between ages 18 and 31, 32. They’re going to every now and again make blues, and more importantly we’ll then deal with those situations.”

Richardson’s answer was in line with skipper Max Gawn, who, when asked on Wednesday if there was a club issue, said: “Not in my opinion, no.

“It obviously is quite shocking. (But) all I can say is for 16 years I’ve been getting drug tested, for 10 years I’ve been getting hair tested.

“In that 10 years, I’ve never been told our club has a drug culture.

“Until I get told we have an issue or until I can see the issue myself, with my own eyes, I can only go off face value.”

Late last year, Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert said the club culture was “the best I’ve seen in 40 years”.

Adding to Melbourne’s woes over the past few months, they were rocked on Thursday when star midfielder Angus Brayshaw announced his immediate retirement.

Just a fortnight before the start of the season, the premiership player has retired on medical advice because of concussion.