AFL drugs code failing players: Goddard

Recently-retired AFL champion Brendon Goddard has thrown his weight behind a stricter illicit drugs code, warning that players are slipping through the net.

Goddard's call for an AFL crackdown came just hours after AFL Players' Association chief Paul Marsh dismissed talk of strengthening the code and hinted that players would walk away from the voluntary policy if pushed.

The AFL and AFLPA will jointly review the policy next year amid concerns some players have used mental health issues as an excuse to avoid sanction.

Retired St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt has been a strident critic, calling for a zero-tolerance approach to fix a situation he labelled "out of control".

Former Saints teammate Goddard, whose achievements on and off the field were recognised on Tuesday night when he won the AFLPA's Madden Medal, believes illicit drug use has escalated in the AFL since he started his career.

"I think publicly I haven't spoken about it but internally and to the AFL, I've made my view pretty clear -- that we can be harsher and more strict on it," said Goddard, who retired last December after 334 games with St Kilda and Essendon.

"I understand their reasonings around helping guys with problems, in particular (those) that lead into mental health.

"But I think if you've got a stronger stance from the start, it'll actually prevent some of the guys in creating problems with (illicit) drug use and prescription drugs and all that sort of thing.

"I don't think whacking them straight up but to be an industry leading in that area, I think the AFL and clubs in general - and the players - can agree to make it a little more strict because I think there's too much grey area for guys and too many slipping through the net."

Goddard, whose brother was jailed in 2007 for heroin trafficking, noted he had first-hand experience of how drugs could affect families.

Under the AFL's policy, players who receive a second strike for illicit drug use are publicly named and serve a four-match suspension.

No player has been suspended since the policy -- which has been voluntarily agreed to by the players and is aimed more at harm minimisation than punishment -- changed from three strikes to two just over three years ago.

Marsh on Tuesday night suggested a more hardline policy was unlikely to win support.

"This is a voluntary policy - the players could walk away from this at any point," he said.

"We don't want to because it's helped out a lot of players. That's what we hope will continue to happen."