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AFL coach Luke Beveridge said there are 'not many sporting codes in the world that have an illicit drugs policy'. Is he correct?

RMIT ABC Fact Check
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RMIT ABC Fact Check and RMIT FactLab present the latest in debunked misinformation.

CheckMate is a weekly newsletter from RMIT FactLab which recaps the latest in the world of fact checking and misinformation, drawing on the work of FactLab and its sister organisation, RMIT ABC Fact Check.

You can read the latest edition below, and subscribe to have the next newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

CheckMate June 17, 2022

In this week's edition of CheckMate, we examine the drug policies of sporting codes around the world after an AFL coach claimed the sport was unique in its stance on illicit substances, following a drugs scandal involving one of his players.

We also bring you the latest news from the US on the 2021 Capitol riots, and debunk claims about monkeypox and Woolies going cashless.

Plus, does the World Economic Forum really plan for us to "own nothing and be happy"?

How common are illicit drugs policies in world sport?

A grainy screenshot of a man with a mullet and moustache holding a small plastic bag.
Bailey Smith was awarded a "notifiable adverse finding", or strike, under the AFL's Illicit Drugs Policy. But what sanction would he have received if he'd played in a different competition?

The AFL's illicit drugs policy has been in the spotlight this week after footage captured during the off-season of young superstar Bailey Smith "with an illicit substance" surfaced online and in the media.

Smith was yesterday handed a two-match suspension by the AFL's Integrity Unit for engaging in conduct that was "unbecoming or likely to prejudice the interests or reputation of the AFL or to bring the game of football into disrepute".

He was also awarded a "notifiable adverse finding", or strike, under the AFL's Illicit Drugs Policy. As a first-time offender, this did not result in a suspension, but a second strike would see Smith suspended for four matches, while a third would earn him a 12-match ban.

The policy has been criticised by Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett, who has called for players who breach it to face two-year bans without pay.

But Smith's coach at the Western Bulldogs, Luke Beveridge, said he would like to see the policy scrapped.

"I'm a big believer that it should disappear, and there's not many sporting codes in the world that have an illicit drug policy — it's obviously all based around performance enhancing," he told reporters on Monday.

But is that correct?

Most peak sports bodies in Australia — including those representing cricketrugby leaguerugby unionnetballbasketball and even power boating — have an illicit drugs policy, with experts telling CheckMate this was largely the result of pressure from the federal government in the early 2000s.

CheckMate also found examples of national sporting organisations with these types of policies overseas — from the US National Football League (NFL) and England's Football Association to the national rugby bodies of New Zealand and Scotland.

That said, sporting bodies in many parts of the world do not have a specific policy for illicit drugs as they are signatories to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), whose prohibited substances list already includes penalties for taking so-called "Substances of Abuse" such as cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy.

Catherine Ordway, sport integrity research lead at the University of Canberra, told CheckMate that, in line with WADA rules, athletes in many of these competitions would only be tested for these substances on "game days", which is quite different to the approach of sports with a specific illicit drugs policy.

"This means that players from professional sports like the AFL, and also, say, cricket and the NRL, are subject to two anti-doping policies: one implementing the WADA Code and the other, a voluntary extension by the sport, which is the illicit drugs policy," Dr Ordway said.

Daryl Adair, an associate professor of sport management at the University of Technology Sydney, added that international governing bodies (like FIFA) rarely tell national sporting organisations what position they should take on illicit drugs.

"In part, this is because there is no requirement for such a policy by WADA," he said. "But it also speaks to considerable variations around the world in terms of permissions or prohibitions around illicit substances.

"Generally speaking, illicit drug policies in sport are found in liberal democracies."

Does the World Economic Forum want you to 'own nothing and be happy'?

Donald Trump and Gianni Infantino lean towards eachother talking.
Donald Trump and FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the 2020 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, an organisation that conspiracy theorists claim has communistic plans.(Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)

The World Economic Forum held its annual get together in Davos, Switzerland last month, setting off a wave of claims — both old and new — about what exactly the organisation is up to.

Many of these claims feature variations of the statement "you will own nothing and you will be happy" — attributed to the WEF and often invoked online as "evidence" of an apparently nefarious plan for a future communistic society.

The quote has also made its way into Australian politics, promoted over the years through various social media channels by, for example, One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, former One Nation MP George Christensen and former United Australia Party MP Craig Kelly.

But what does it actually mean, and can it be attributed to the WEF?

The statement appears to originate from a Facebook post, published by the WEF in 2016, that contained a video of eight "predictions for the world in 2030", the first of which was: "You'll own nothing. And you'll be happy."

The post also linked to a separate article where experts offered "their take on the world in 2030", which attributed the "own nothing" idea to the Danish politician Ida Auken, who penned a longer article for the WEF about her prediction (also published by Forbes).

That article included this disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum."

And despite claims, it did not outline any plan by the WEF for the world but, rather, featured Auken's imaginings on how technology could be used to improve lives by 2030.

Indeed, as fact checkers at Reuters have pointed out, the WEF "does not have a stated goal to have people 'own nothing and be happy' by 2030".

"Its Agenda 2030 framework outlines an aim to ensure all people have access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property."

The misappropriated phrase plays into a larger WEF-centred conspiracy theory about the so-called "Great Reset".

According to research undertaken by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and RMIT FactLab's Mosaic election monitoring project, the core theme of the conspiracy involves the WEF and its chairman Klaus Schwab acting as a "Machiavellian hidden hand" to achieve their own "sinister goals".

But in reality, ISD explains, the Great Reset represents a broad set of economic goals set out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vague nature of which has provided "fertile soil for the conspiracy theory to grow".

No evidence Trump ordered 20,000 troops to defend the US Capitol

A man stands in front of a white building holding a sign, which says "The Big Lie: Its poison continues to spread..."
Unfounded conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election and the January 6 Capitol riot are still rampant in the US.(AP News: Jose Luis Magana)

This week, millions of Americans tuned in to watch live as the House of Representatives committee investigating the storming of the US Capitol laid out its case against Donald Trump, who they argue fomented the January 6 riots and sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election result.

In response, some social media users, politicians and US media pundits have continued to push bogus claims that the former president requested 20,000 National Guard troops to defend Congress, only to be blocked by senior Democrat and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mr Trump, too, has argued that he "offered up to 20,000" troops but that "crazy Nancy Pelosi turned down the offer".

But these claims are baseless. As fact checkers with PolitiFact and Snopes have reported, Ms Pelosi has no authority to block such a request, and the DC National Guard is subordinate "solely to the president".

Mr Trump has previously claimed he authorised the deployment of 10,000 troops, a figure that appears to originate from an offhand remark to his acting defence secretary.

However, there is no record of any request for troops prior to the Capitol being breached, aside from the 340 requested by the city mayor for traffic and crowd control.

Once rioters were inside, requests were made by the mayor, the Capitol Police and — the January 6 committee has revealed — the then vice-president, Mike Pence.

The Department of Defence eventually authorised the deployment of the National Guard but there remains no evidence of any request from the president himself.

CoronaCheck: 'VAIDS' claims just monkey business

A greyscale image shows fuzzy circular and oval-shaped particles
Unlike COVID-19 vaccines, the monkeypox virus has been around since 1958.(Reuters: Cynthia S Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC/Handout)

As health authorities around the world grapple with an outbreak of monkeypox, social media has been awash with false claims that the disease is a side effect of COVID-19 vaccination dubbed VAIDS, or "vaccine-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome".

Facebook users have wrongly suggested the vaccines suppress the immune system, with one claiming that "the vaccinated have VAIDS and this [monkeypox] is just the first symptom".

But there is no such thing as "VAIDS" and there is no causal link between COVID-19 jabs and AIDS, let alone monkeypox, RMIT FactLab has found.

A relative of smallpox, the monkeypox virus was first discovered in monkeys in 1958 and in humans in 1970. COVID-19 vaccines, meanwhile, only became widely available in 2021.

Monkeypox is endemic to some regions, though non-endemic countries have also experienced outbreaks before the advent of COVID-19 vaccines — such as the US in 2003.

Dr Joshua Szanyi, public health medicine registrar at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, said "there is no such thing as 'vaccine-acquired immune deficiency syndrome', and vaccines do not cause immune deficiencies".

"There is no basis at all to any claims that the monkeypox outbreak is in any way related to COVID-19 vaccination," he added.

Catherine Bennett, chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, told FactLab there was "no evidence that frequent boosters could have a negative impact on the immune response" to COVID-19 or other infectious diseases.

She explained that the current outbreak of monkeypox has so far been largely limited to the gay and bisexual male community, and that "[i]f there was anything insidious going [on] linked to population immunity following vaccination, we would not expect to see it impacting one particular demographic as we are seeing here".

Cashless Woolworths no sign of things to come

Social media users have claimed the federal government is planning to enforce a cashless society, citing as evidence an apparent move by Woolworths to phase out cash payments.

"Labor government sworn in on Monday. Cashless society begins today (Thursday) with Woolworths store refusing to accept or give out cash," read one Facebook post.

Originating from a tweet by the unsuccessful Queensland Liberal Democrats candidate Diane Demetre, the post was accompanied by an image of a Woolworths window notice.

"Payments can now only be made by card," the notice said. "We no longer accept cash payments or offer cash out facilities."

But as FactLab found this week, the outdated notice has nothing to do with the new government and does not reflect current payment options at Woolworths.

A company spokesman said the sign was likely displayed back when the retailer trialled cashless payments in select Sydney and Melbourne stores that were receiving few cash payments.

That trial ended in March 2021, after the media reported customer dissatisfaction, and the spokesman confirmed that Woolworths customers were still free to use cash in all of its stores.

"Cash remains an important payment option for many of our customers and will continue to be offered as a payment form in our stores," he said.

A reverse image search showed the poster first appeared online in July 2020 and was featured in 7news and Daily Mail news articles.

Edited by Ellen McCutchan and David Campbell, with thanks to Jack Kerr, Ewa Staszewska and Liam McNally

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This newsletter is supported by funding from the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas(Judith Nielson Institute)