KZN’s top rugby schools support standardised testing for steroids

2013-12-04 00:00

ALL of the province’s top rugby playing schools have given their support to the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport’s (Saids) effort, in partnership with Discovery Sharksmart, to standardise the testing of steroids and banned substances in schools.

According to Saids CEO Khalid Galant, the unrolling of the programme is well on track to be fully functional by the end of next year.

In 2013, close to 10% of KwaZulu-Natal-based matriculants admitted to having used banned anabolic steroids sometime during their high school career. The Discovery Sharksmart Pupil Wellbeing survey covered 12 000 high schoolers in the province.

According to Discovery Sharksmart director Glen Hagemann, this figure may be conservative due to its reliance on the honesty of the school children.

“It is important to recognise that this is not a rugby problem specifically,” Hagemann explained to The Witness. “In fact, most boys who take steroids take them for social reasons.”

Steroid use in schools, specifically amongst rugby players, has long been documented as problematic.

The programme will look to tackle the following issues:

• Payment for testing will now come from Saids’s government funding. Schools won’t have to pay anything.

• Saids has suggested a possible year ban or possible expulsion for those found to be using banned substances.

• A database of Saids-accredited schools is being compiled, all of which will use the new testing structures.

“Most schools have welcomed it, and the response in KZN has been particularly impressive,” said Hagemann.

While Saids makes a public display of sporting adults who have been punished after testing positive for banned substances, they can legally not do so with school children, so measuring the full extent of the problem is difficult.

In addition, testing in schools in the past has always been conducted internally.

But as the programme continues to unfold, there are still areas of concern.

The responsibility of initiating the testing comes from the schools themselves, and Saids are not in a position to test schools at will or respond to reports of steroid use from concerned parents.

And while Saids is looking to provide a standardised guideline regarding punishment to steroid users in schools, that responsibility is also that of the school’s governing body.

“The programme is not without its flaws and these are issues that we are looking, with the help of the Department of Education, to resolve as we move along by having the same structures in place for everyone,” said Galant.

“You could go into any school and find that some kids have been using steroids,” he said.

“Common sense needs to prevail. There is always a lot of hype surrounding these issues between schools of similar stature, and the facts need to be treated very carefully.”

Glenwood headmaster Trevor Kershaw welcomed the intervention, saying that there had been suspicions of pupils at the school using banned substances this year.

“We conduct regular searches at school and in the hostel and we suspected some boys of having illegal substances this year,” he said.

“But how would we know without correct testing protocols?

“At present we carry out our own ‘scare-tactic’ urine tests but they really only check for recreational drugs,” Kershaw said.

Accredited schools:

Ashton International College; Clifton School; Crawford College La Lucia; Durban High School; George Campbell School of Technology; Glenwood High; Grace College; Hillcrest High; Hilton College; Kearsney College; Maritzburg College; Michaelhouse; Northwood Boys’ High School; Southcity Christian College; St Charles College; St David’s Marist Inanda; Treverton College; Voortrekker High School; Westville Boys’ High School

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