Alarm bells as substance abuse slips through at school level

2010-11-25 00:00

WITH the spate of prominent senior and U19 rugby players testing positive for illegal performance enhan­cing substances recently, South African sports scientist Dr Ross Tucker has sounded a warning that it may be the tip of a very deep iceberg.

“More frequent testing for performance enhancing drugs at schools should be the starting point to rid the professional rugby industry of this plague,” Tucker said.

“Doping at schoolboy level is a very serious problem; more should be done to prevent it from happening, and the reason why doping by the youth is so alarming is because less testing is conducted at their level.”

Tucker said 16- and 17-year-old players know that one outstanding performance can determine their future, “and as is the case in all sporting codes, doping increases as soon as there is money involved”.

The sports scientist said the primary responsibility lies with parents and teachers — who he says in some instances are known to administer the illegal substances — to get involved in the purification process.

“Awareness with regards to the consequences also needs to be explained and this is where coaches and parents play a huge role,” said Tucker.

“The sad truth is that coaches and parents often look the other way to ensure that their child or team benefits.”

Tucker called for a revised strategy as far as contracting young players is concerned and expressed his concern with the manner in which the best interests of young players often rank second to that of the union they are contracted to.

“The pressure being exerted on youngsters in rugby is fundamentally wrong and we need to take cognisance of what is happening to our future stars.”

The increasing demands of the game means physical superiority is now a basic requirement when potential stars are identified.

Primary school players identified and targeted by rugby unions adds further pressure.

“Sport is a lucrative career option for many youngsters and, when one considers the fame and money, it is no surprise they are getting involved in stimulant abuse. And there is little likelihood of being caught abusing substances while at school.”

Griquas U19 fullback Abrie Marais and Eastern Province U19 flyhalf Jonathan Mudrovcic recently received two-year bans for the use of norandrosterone (a metabolite of nandrolone and/or a precursor of it).

Free State U19 flyhalf Johan Goosen, 2010 Craven Week player of the tournament, received a three-month ban after he tested positive for the same substance found in Springboks Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson’s blood after the Ireland Test.

The SA Rugby Union and the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport are increasing testing of junior players.

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