The cocaine use which contributed to Tim Simona and Ben Barba's NRL downfalls could have been avoided with the promise of automatic two-year bans if caught, according to Paul Gallen.
Gallen is calling for the NRL to do away with the three-strikes illicit-drugs policy and adopt a zero-tolerance approach - an idea that would have prevented former Cronulla teammate Barba playing in last year's premiership. "If they want to really deter it, make it illegal (under NRL rules)," Sharks captain Gallen told Sky Sports Radio on Tuesday.
Under the NRL's illicit-drugs policy, a player's first positive return in random testing will land them a suspended fine, with their identity protected. A second positive test is punished by a 12-match suspension as in the case of Barba before his defection to French rugby union.
Third-time offenders face severe disciplinary action from the NRL. "It's illegal in general society. We've got this softly-softly approach ... just make it illegal all the time," Gallen said.
"It's a pretty simple fix. I think it will deter people a whole lot more from taking the risk of taking it over the weekend.
"You're going to get tested on Monday and cop a two-year ban. I think that's a pretty simple fix but for some reason, it's not." Simona was deregistered from the NRL last Friday after placing bets on more than 60 games, ranging from wagers on himself to opposition teams and players. The disgraced former Wests Tigers centre said he had taken cocaine regularly since his introduction to the drug at mad Monday celebrations three years ago, which contributed towards his downward spiral.
But he was never caught despite being randomly tested, revealing to News Corp Australia he believed the drug would be out of his system by Monday if he took it on a Friday.
Gallen, who expressed hope Simona could rebuild his life, suggested testing should have been done more regularly.
"I can't understand how something can be classed as performance enhancing on match day, but it's not throughout the week. That's what gets me," he said.