SARU: No more supplements

Cape Town - The SA Rugby Union (SARU) will not condone the use of any nutritional supplements, its medical chief Dr Clint Readhead warned rugby players on Friday.

He was reacting after a SARU judicial committee cleared Springboks Bjorn Basson and Chiliboy Ralepelle on a doping charge.

They had tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA) after playing a Test match against Ireland in Dublin on November 6.

On Friday, the committee found "no fault" on their part for the positive tests.

In a statement, Saru CEO Jurie Roux said the banned stimulant was in a supplement given to the players in the warm-up before the Test and was a product the Springboks had used before without any adverse analytical findings and which was used by other professional and national teams.

Nutritional supplements have become a big part of rugby’s fitness and physical conditioning programmes in recent years.

At a press conference at Newlands, in Cape Town, Readhead said SARU would start taking a tough stance on supplements.

"I can categorically say that, from now going forward, we would not endorse, condone or supply any national player with supplements after this trial," he said.

"If a player wants to use a supplement, he does that on his own accord, and he understands the strict liability ruling in place.

"The message coming from my office will be clear: The risk is extremely high. We’ve learnt that the hard way.

"There is never no risk. There is very little research evidence that actually supports the efficacy of supplements.

"So, if you weigh the risk up with the low level of research available, it’s not worth the risk. My advice would be that players should rather not get involved with supplements." said Readhead.

He said he would advise any rugby player at any level to seek an expert opinion if they were thinking of using supplements.

"We recommend that all players consult their sports doctor and sports dietician.

"A proper work-up is done to identify whether they actually do need a supplement because something is missing from their natural diet.

"That’s the most important thing. Experts in the field reckon that everything that you need, legally, can be gained from a natural, controlled diet.

"Following a consultation, if something is missing from your diet, they can assist you in making an informed decision going forward, but no one else will take responsibility. The risk lies with the player."

While Basson and Ralepelle have been cleared, their image and that of SARU has been damaged.

However, Roux hoped this would be dispelled by the transparency with which SARU was dealing with the matter.

"From SARU’s side, we are obviously very delighted that Chili and Bjorn are able to play rugby immediately, and that they have only been reprimanded under WADA’s (the World Anti-Doping Agency's) strict rules," he said.

"I think this completely quashes any idea or notion that either the players or the Springboks are cheats.

"We are extremely sorry about the stress and the stigma of a cheat being attached to the players, and we apologise for that.

"We are extremely relieved we can now prove that neither the Springboks or the players are cheats, and that tag can be buried forever.

"I made a promise to the media at my first press conference that SA Rugby will not be lying about anything; we will be transparent to the point where we are not in any legal obligation to not share information. There is nothing to hide here." said Roux.

"It is important that both South Africans and the international community know that we are not cheats, we don’t need drugs to win matches and that we are transparent whenever anything comes up in that regard."

Roux said SARU would "evaluate" whether it would take any legal action against USN at a later stage.

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