By Daniel Albright, 2 Jan 2014. Daniel Albright is a Roar Rookie The bubble finally burst for Australian sport. Long proclaimed as a nation of clean athletes, the NRL and AFL came under extreme criticism after it emerged clubs and players had been using performance-enhancing substances. In reality, it was fairly naïve for Australia to believe that drugs weren’t an issue within national sports. As the NRL has become a billion-dollar industry, the incentive is greater than ever to find any advantage. With some player contracts passing the million dollar per season mark, any competitive advantage can prove the difference between a successful career and a short stint in the top leagues. Truly, it is unsurprising that some players have turned to drugs to enhance their overall performance. However, there is an important question that revolves around why drugs are banned in sport. Most banned drugs are labelled as performance-enhancing which give athletes an unfair boost to their physical abilities. But these performance-enhancing drugs also include drugs which promote quicker recovery from injuries. Surely it would be an improvement to sport if players who suffer injuries are able to return faster and healthier than ever. WADA, as the major international doping body, develops most of the regulations regarding drug use in sport which the Australian national body of ASADA follows stringently. It should be noted that the imposed penalties are quite strong, with many first time offenders receiving two year bans. This compares to the systems utilised in America, with NFL offenders receiving a quarter season ban for a first time offence. Most fans deride drug use in sports, yet don’t always question why the drugs are banned. Obviously drugs which have not been approved for human use, which have potentially been used in the NRL and AFL scandals, should deserve harsh penalties. It places the welfare of players in danger and in most cases, violates medical laws and ethics. But when it comes to drugs which have been medically approved for human use and are effective in treating injuries, there is an unnecessary stigma attached. The case of Sandor Earl is particularly interesting, as he was introduced to the world of sporting drugs due to an injury acquired through playing. Earl obviously went further than simple rehabilitation, going into trafficking and supplying illegal drugs to other individuals. But is there not a legitimate argument for the use of legal drugs in rehabilitating injuries? If regular citizens are able to utilise these drugs to recover from injuries in their own lives, it doesn’t seem equal to ban athletes from using these same recovery techniques. If these drugs can minimise the effect of injuries it can create a positive effect by maximising the time players stay on the field. As long as these drugs are accepted and recognised as legitimate by the medical community and the legal system, there should be an avenue for legalisation within sport. Kobe Bryant used plasma therapy to quickly heal his Achilles tear. NFL teams use hyperbaric chambers to improve injury recovery speeds. Robin van Persie uses horse placenta to recover from muscle injuries. Are these forms of treatment, which have been questioned but recognised as legitimate by their relevant sports, truly different to the use of medically accepted drugs? The Sharks have been given a maximum fine of $1 million with a 12-month suspension of their coach, Shane Flanagan. Essendon has suffered a similar monetary penalty and seen their head coach, James Hird, suspended by the AFL. These teams, and potentially others, have broken the drug regulations and should be punished accordingly. The legality of the drugs does not change the fact that players cannot use WADA-listed drugs in sport at this point in time. There should be a major focus on any drugs which aren’t approved for human use, as this isn’t only unethical but illegal. However in future, should there not be dialogue over whether legal drugs can be used legitimately within sport? Could these drugs not be used to treat players with significant injuries? Instead of merely accepting drugs as a form of cheating, it’s time to discuss whether medically accepted drugs should be allowed for use in sports.