Cover-up claim hits the Lions

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 19 Februari 2013 | 14.43

Lions coach Michael Voss says there is no chance drug taking could have happened at the club in the years of his captaincy without his knowledge. Picture: George Salpigtidis Source: Herald Sun

Brisbane Lions players with 2002 premiership cup. Picture: Jody Darcy Source: Herald Sun

MICHAEL Voss today admitted he couldn't rule out illicit drug use was happening during his tenure as Lions captain - but he insists the latest drug claims levelled at the club have some glaring inconsistencies.

A day after self-confessed drug dealer Jason McGrath - the cousin of premiership player Ash McGrath - made stunning allegations he supplied illicit drugs to Lions players from 2002-09, new reports emerged that one player sat out games in the same period to hide a drug issue.

But Brisbane coach Voss says only the individual and the club doctor would be privy as to why a player would miss games in that instance.

"I'm learning some things here, apparently. Trying to sort through what is fact and fiction is a little hard at the moment,'' Voss told Triple M this morning.

"There are inconsistencies that players have missed games ... because as officials and (other) players, we don't get notified.

"The doctor does that with the (individual) player and we don't know. That shouldn't be general knowledge and no-one should know except the player and the doctor.''

Voss, who led Brisbane to the 2001-03 flags and until 2006, admitted he couldn't be certain teammates weren't using drugs under his leadership.

"They could have been (doing anything),'' he said.

"I'm not naive enough to sit here and say that it hasn't happened. I couldn't say that with 100 per cent certainty.

"But there has been a whole bunch of things mentioned and I'd really question the validity of those allegations.''

When asked if he'd ever met Jason McGrath, the six-time All Australian said: ``not that I can certainly recall''.

"That's why we say they (the claims) are unsubstantiated. The names that have been thrown around I haven't even seen before,'' Voss said.

"We have after-match functions where there are probably 200 or 250 people. There are a lot of people hovering around and I might have walked past him two or three times but apart from seeing his photos recently I wouldn't know what the guy looks like.

"Speaking to some of my other teammates yesterday they don't know who he is either.

"He's out and about but he's a bit of a phantom to us all at the moment. But he might be familiar to some of our players at that stage of our careers, but he certainly wasn't to a majority of us.''

Voss hoped the drugs in sport saga didn't harm the club's image or sponsorship deals.

The Courier-Mail today revealed explosive allegations that the reason for a Brisbane Lions player's absence from some games last decade was falsified to cover-up an illicit drug issue.

A former Lions staffer told The Courier-Mail a player missed specific matches in this period because of the illicit drugs issue.

It is just one of several allegations to emerge that have prompted the AFL to open an investigation into behaviours at the club between 2002 and 2009.

The AFL confirmed yesterday the league's integrity unit would investigate.

It follows claims by Jason McGrath, the cousin of premiership player Ash McGrath, that he was involved in match-fixing, illegal gambling and was a drug supplier to six Lions players from that period who were regular users of speed, ecstacy and marijuana.

The Courier-Mail revealed these claims yesterday and was then contacted by a former staffer who worked at the Lions for several years.

The ex-staffer said he could confirm many of Jason McGrath's allegations surrounding drug use.

Another former employee also made the revelation that while at the Lions he was told the reason for a player's absence from the side was a fabrication to cover up an issue with illicit drugs.

Last week AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou confirmed players in the AFL have been repeatedly forced to miss matches because of serious breaches of the league's illicit drug policy.

The Lions reacted angrily to the decision by The Courier-Mail to publish Jason McGrath's allegations.

"These claims from a 'self-confessed drug dealer' are completely unsubstantiated and do not deserve publicity," the Lions said in a statement.

"We have no reason to believe the word of a 'self-confessed drug dealer', but if anyone, including The Courier-Mail, has any evidence with regards to this, or any other matter, it should be referred to either the AFL integrity unit or the Queensland Police.''

AFL corporate affairs manager James Tonkin said the league had opened a probe into events at the club between 2002-09.

"We don't comment on unsubstantated claims, but the matter has been referred to the integrity unit,'' Tonkin said.

The AFL confirmed the League's integrity officer Brett Clothier will also investigate a 2003 game involving the Lions with regards to match-fixing claims.

The Lions received an irate phone call from the AFL in 2003 following the game.

The AFL's Integrity Unit was not established until 2008.

Lions chief executive Malcolm Holmes declined to return calls from The Courier-Mail  yesterday requesting further comment.

The Courier-Mail has alerted the AFL to the latest allegations, but have protected the identity of our sources.

It can be revealed that one person has made himself available for a confidential interview with the AFL's integrity unit and another is considering his position.

Other sources declined.

Last week, The Courier-Mail contacted several former players and staff in an attempt to interview about Jason McGrath's claims.

None of the sources had proof of any drug-taking, but each claimed they were aware of drug use by some or all of the players from the 2002-09 period mentioned by Jason McGrath.

Former Lions chairman Graeme Downie said he was unconcerned about the allegations.

"I never heard questions about any matches and I never heard any rumours of drugs during my time,'' Downie said.

Voss last night told Channel 7 there was no chance drug taking could have happened at the club in the years of his captaincy without his knowledge.

Voss captained Brisbane in each of their three premiership years in 2001-03 and until his retirement in 2006.

"You would know, when you are amongst the players, you would know,'' Voss said.

"If there is evidence to suggest that we would encourage you to go to the AFL integrity office or Queensland police.''

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