Cape Town - The South African Rugby Union (SARU) is concerned about the increased usage of steroids among schoolboy rugby players.
In recent times there have been numerous reports regarding doping at schoolboy level and late last year former Lions coach John Mitchell also expressed his concern.
“In South Africa, doping is an issue that starts at schoolboy level. The game is taken very seriously and players are often put under pressure to perform from parents and coaches alike,” Mitchell commented.
“Fundamentally, the problem in South Africa is that so much emphasis is placed on the size of players. The perception in this country is that you have to be big in order to become a professional rugby player - it’s no wonder schoolboys want to bulk up.”
SARU has clearly taken note if this growing trend and is intent to erase it.
SARU CEO Jurie Roux recently wrote a letter to several headmasters expressing their concern on the matter.
Roux’s letter to the headmasters reads:
The South African Rugby Union has evidence to suggest that the use of anabolic steroids among schoolchildren is on the increase. I am appealing to you today to enlist in a campaign to address and confront this alarming sub-culture.
I should start by conceding that my organisation has no direct jurisdiction over schoolboy rugby; SARU’s influence begins and ends with our Youth Week tournaments. However, we have a duty to alert you to what we believe is happening at schoolboy level and represents a danger to the children in your care and to the sport of rugby.
A number of age group rugby players have tested positive for anabolic steroids and stimulants in the past two years. In interviews they have painted a lurid picture of widespread abuse and the connivance in some instances of coaches and team-mates. This is far from confined only to rugby players or even just to boys, we understand; one survey suggested that 63% of schoolchildren who admitted that they had taken steroids or would consider taking a steroid did so or would do so, not to improve performance, but to look good.
However, we have a responsibility to the game of rugby and those young people who want to pursue the sport and we would strongly urge you and your governing body to seriously engage in this subject; one that threatens the health our children, the ‘fair play’ ethos of sport; the reputation of your school, our sport and even of South Africa. Last, but far, from least, the procurement or supply of anabolic steroids is a criminal activity.
SARU’s request is simple: sign up your school to the free education programme of the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) – the pre-cursor to what we hope will become a long-planned, voluntary schools-testing programme referred to as the SAIDS School Testing programme. The education programme offers information and advice on the topic of drugs in sport and testing procedures and protocols. SARU requests that all schools playing rugby sign up now and ensure that their teachers, coaches and scholars receive this very important education.
In due course, SAIDS hopes to offer a voluntary testing programme – once an agreed protocol has been negotiated with the Department of Basic Education. At that time we would also urge that your school sign up for the testing programme. The aim of the Schools Testing Programme is to educate all school learners on the dangers of steroids as well as acting as a deterrent by suggesting sanctions for schools to apply should a learner test positive for a banned substance once the programme is fully operational.
SARU takes this issue very seriously and we cannot over-emphasise the threat it poses to rugby and to those schools who may unknowingly (or even knowingly) be harbouring steroid abusers. These children are gambling insanely with their health while those with the duty of care who turn a blind eye place at risk their professional well-being.
SARU’s BokSmart programme – on which all coaches and referees must be certified – provides a wealth of information on the dangers of steroid use. As a first step we would urge you to review this literature as well as directing your scholars to its contents as a precursor to signing up with SAIDs. The information is available in several ways:
- On the BokSmart DVD provided to all course attendees
- Through the BokSmart You Tube channel http://www.youtube.com/boksmartsa
- At http://www.boksmart.com
- On the IRB’s website at http://www.irbkeeprugbyclean.com
I hope you will join me in driving this campaign at your school to do all that we can to create a culture that rejects the use of banned substances in schoolboy sport.
To sign up for SAIDS free education programme, please go to Mr. Liam Shirley at 08610724370 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you require further information or wish to engage with SARU on this issue please contact our medical manager, Clint Readhead, at email@example.com or on 021 928 7000.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER