A big wake-up call

FORMER Richmond great Kevin Bartlett says it could cost his team a place in the AFL finals.

And now Olympic shooter Russell Mark says it might even cost Australia medals in London.

The issue of sportspeople taking sleeping tablets was brought to light when former Olympic gold medallist Grant Hackett revealed that during his career he had become dependent on Stillnox, a brand of the medication zolpidem.

That resulted in Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates coming out on Tuesday and announcing a ban on sedatives for Olympic athletes.

Coates said athletes should use relaxation techniques and at a last resort temazepam, which has fewer side-effects, if they were struggling to sleep.

He also said the ban would be strictly policed with serious breaches resulting in expulsion from the team.

But Mark, who will take part in his sixth Olympics in London, told ABC radio yesterday that it would be unfair for athletes to have their preparations affected because of Hackett's dependence.

"This will affect the amount of medals the team wins," Mark, who is in London preparing for the Games, said.

"If John Coates tells me I can only use sleeping pills for three nights in London, it will have an effect on my performance.

"If I don't get a good night's sleep it's not worth me going. I need something to get me eight hours sleep."

While the issue began in the Olympic arena, it spilled over into the AFL on Wednesday when Richmond announced it had parted ways with Daniel Connors and suspended Dustin Martin for two games when they missed training on Tuesday morning after taking sleeping tablets on Monday night.

Connors, who had a history of unacceptable behaviour at the club, was on prescribed sleeping medication, while Martin, who also admitted to drinking alcohol on Monday night, told club officials he got his medication from a friend.

Richmond's general manager of football operations, Craig Cameron, said the club's medical staff would "continue to educate our entire playing group and emphasise that prescribed medication needs to be taken as directed, and the significant dangers associated with not doing so".

The AFL, which closely monitors the use of prescription drugs by players, said it was satisfied with its policy on the use of sleeping tablets, adding there was no evidence to suggest their misuse was of major concern.

Topics:  grant hackett london olympics

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