Youth warned to stay away from drugs

2012-06-23 15:31

Athletes as young as 15 years old are testing positive for banned substances in sport.

This is the startling revelation made by South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) chairperson Dr Shuaib Manjra as he related to City Press the challenges facing sport as far as doping control was concerned.

Manjra said anabolic steroids and cannabis were the most common drugs detected among young athletes.

“The youngest athlete that tested positive was 15 or 16 years old – he tested for steroids during the Craven Week (schools’ rugby tournament) two years ago,” said Manjra, whose organisation spent R11 million in the last financial year to fight the doping scourge.

“The pressure is to get bigger and stronger in order to make the first team and ultimately get a professional contract. Then there is the pressure to win at all costs. This comes from their coaches, peers and parents.”

Manjra said the starting point for cheats was supplements and then steroids.

“We believe there’s definitely a problem at some schools, particular those with a strong focus on sport, particularly rugby. It is difficult to put statistics to it because it varies from school to school.”

Already this year, rising South African long jump star Luvo Manyonga has been banned for 18 months after testing positive for the drug methamphetamine (tik).

Manjra said: “Manyonga’s case is a sad reflection of our society. Here is a talented athlete who could potentially have qualified for the Olympics. This has all been destroyed by his drug use.”

The 2010 world youth champion was on the verge of qualifying for the London Games, having already fulfilled the qualifying criteria once after finishing fifth with an 8.21m leap at the IAAF World Championships in South Korea last year.

Manjra had words of comfort for the 21-year-old.

“All is not lost. Luvo is young, he has admitted his error and has subjected himself to rehabilitation, which is part of a programme we have instituted.

Manjra said Saids had embarked on road shows around the country targeting youth and warning them about the dangers of doping.

“There is more to do and I believe teachers must play a role. We provide workbooks and other material to assist teachers to promote ethical and fair sport as part of the school curriculum.”

Manjra concluded: “My message is that if you want to be the best you need to respect your body. An elite athlete needs 10 000 hours of training before they get to the highest level.”

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