MELBOURNE - Former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett says the AFL's refusal to implement a zero tolerance policy on drugs is partly to blame for engulfing the code in the doping drama in Australian sport.
Kennett says players have been able to thwart the league's illicit drugs code because of the leniency of its three-strike policy.
The AFL admitted yesterday that its out- of-competition policy was "a work in progress" and needed to be improved.
Kennett's comments come after revelations on Thursday of widespread doping, match-fixing and the involvement of organised crime in Australian professional sport.
AFL boss Andrew Demetriou returned from the Canberra announcement of the results of a year-long Australian Crime Commission probe and held a snap media conference outlining what action the AFL planned.
But Kennett said that move was pointless unless the league was prepared to attack the central problem.
"There is no point going to Canberra yesterday, coming back and holding a lightning meeting and then trying to respond without attacking the core problem," Kennett told SEN radio.
"I'd like to suggest that the AFL have got themselves into this situation partly because of their own doing.
"We've got a policy on drugs which is indefensible - that has allowed evasion and, in fact, cheating.
"The AFL alone have known who the players are that have offended - not the clubs."
Kennett repeated his call for a tougher anti-drugs stand that would close loopholes that players were exploiting.
"There is only one policy which will survive any test and that is a zero tolerance policy to drugs, be they illicit drugs or performance-enhancing drugs," he said.
"If all the players understand that - and the clubs understand it - those who then break the rules have no one else but themselves to blame."
Kennett said players who tested positive to illicit or performance-enhancing drugs should be given one chance with stringent conditions attached.
He said if a player tested positive for illicit or performance-enhancing drugs, his salary should be cut to that of a recruit, he should be suspended for a year and he should enter a rehabilitation program.
"If at the end of that year, the player and the club wanted to continue their contract, then they'd be given a second chance.
"If then they test positive ... they are out of the code for life," Kennett said.
AFL deputy chief executive Gillon McLachlan acknowledged the code needed to be enhanced.
"The illicit drugs code, like everything, is always a work in progress and can be improved," McLachlan said.
"The federal government has said every code needs an illicit drugs policy and we're the only one who's had one."
McLachlan admitted there were loopholes players could exploit in the AFL's code.
"I'm not saying we're world's best practice or we're ahead of the curve but we have been onto this - but there are a lot of improvements we can make," he said.