MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) on Monday cleared the Australian Football League (AFL) of allegations that “off-the-books” drug testing was conducted to help players evade detection by anti-doping authorities on match days.

Lawmaker Andrew Wilkie made the allegations in Australia’s parliament in March, citing whistleblowers who said secret tests for illicit drugs were conducted and players who returned positive results were rested, ostensibly for injuries.

SIA conducted an assessment of the allegations and reported its findings on Monday.

“The assessment … significantly identified there were no breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code through any anti-doping rule violation by AFL players or support personnel, or that injuries were feigned to cover up for positive drug testing during the week by the AFL or club doctor,” the national anti-doping authority said in a statement.

The AFL, the governing body for Australian rules football, is a signatory to WADA’s anti-doping code but runs a separate “Illicit Drug Policy” (IDP) for drugs like cocaine and ecstasy that are more associated with social use.

The IDP exists alongside the Australian Football Anti-Doping Code, which covers WADA-listed substances banned in and out of competition and some drugs in the IDP which are banned in-competition.

SIA concluded that there were “no irreconcilable inconsistencies” between the IDP and the national drug strategy but made seven recommendations for improvements, some to avoid fostering suspicion around the process.

The AFL welcomed the findings of the review.

“We said from the outset that the allegations raised in Parliament did not reflect either the intent or operation of the Illicit Drug policy and we welcome the findings of Australia’s sport integrity agency that found zero evidence to support the claims,” said AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon.

“It is important to reinforce the point that we do not in any way condone illicit drug use but we accept that we have a responsibility as a code to try and change behaviours of those that do make the mistake of trying/using illicit drugs.”

The AFL said it would take on board SIA’s recommendations as it reviewed its doping policies for the 2025 season.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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