NRL embarrassed over new drugs policy

The National Rugby League has rightly been embarrassed today over its much vaunted new "tough policy" on drugs.

In truth the new policy is based on the increasingly discredited AFL policy - a policy that has already forced the AFL to seek court action to prevent the identity of players who failed two tests being revealed by the media.

The problem for a number of NRL clubs - notably the North Queensland Cowboys - is that the new policy is significantly weaker than the policy the clubs themselves have implemented. It was the zero tolerance policy adopted by the Cowboys that resulted in the instant sacking of Mitchell Sargent for a first offence late last year.

The new policy - which the NRL wants to be uniform - is effectively a "three strikes" policy. For a first offence, the penalty is a suspended fine. For a second offence it is a fine of 15% of the player's salary, and for a third offence an automatic 12 week suspension.

NRL clubs were given until last Friday to comment on the draft NRL policy and while all favour a uniform approach, five clubs - almost a third of the total - believe the proposed penalties are too weak.

The five clubs are the Canberra Raiders, Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Storm, the Cowboys and the new team, the Gold Coast Titans.

As the Cowboys CEO, Peter Parr, points out in today