Kids and drugs
Alarm as pill-popping spikes
An increasing number of pupils are testing positive for steroids. Some are injecting themselves with illegal substances supplied by professional trainers.
Latest figures from the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport reveal that five pupils were among the 38 sportsmen and women who failed drug tests between April 2016 and March this year. Only one pupil tested positive in the previous financial year.
Since March eight more pupils have tested positive, most of them rugby players.
Experts warn that this is just the tip of the iceberg. One sports physician said he had seen 30 to 40 pupils between January and April who had taken steroids.
Of the 13 pupils who have tested positive for banned anabolic steroids in the past 18 months, 10 were schoolboy rugby players.
Only a “small sample” of pupils participating in events organised by national sports federations had been tested, the institute said this week.
This month, a pupil at King Edward VII High School in Johannesburg was caught injecting himself with a substance. The boy said he believed the syringe contained steroids. Another pupil at the school admitted to using steroids in a tablet form.
KES headmaster David Lovatt declined to respond to questions e-mailed to him. He informed parents in a communiqué last week that he had granted pupils an amnesty until last Sunday to disclose whether they had either taken or sold steroids.
He told the Sunday Times the school would continue to educate its boys about “the obvious downsides to any performanceenhancing substances”.
At Penryn College in Nelspruit, two 19year-old rugby players tested positive for clenbuterol, tamoxifen and methandienone in May. Chris Erasmus, the school’s executive head, said the pupils had bought supplements at a chemist.
“The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport provided a professional consultant to address our boys and girls about the dangers of drug use in sport,” said Erasmus.
In March, anabolic steroids were found in a boy’s cupboard at the hostel at Paarl Boys’ High, South Africa’s top rugby school in 2017, as rated by sports website Rugby365.com.
Principal Derek Swart said the pupil was not in one of the school’s top rugby teams.
He said that for the first time this year the school had asked the institute to test five of its top athletes.
“It’s a bloody risky thing for any school to do and all five tested negative. For us it was a great relief,” said Swart.
Johannesburg-based sports physician Dr Jon Patricios said he had seen between 30 and 40 pupils between January and April who had taken steroids.
“Because a lot of these kids are not really tested for these things they get away with it. Probably if you are not playing sports in the high levels, it’s unlikely you will be tested,” said Patricios.
He said these drugs were available on the internet as well as from gym instructors and through supplement shops.
“We are selling these kids the lie that there’s a livelihood to be made out of professional sport and so many of them ignore their academic careers. They set their heart on a professional sporting career from the age of 15.
“They often don’t want to hear the logic in terms of the potential health risks. They can’t see the cholesterol levels that are rising and the infertility that is developing.”
Khalid Galant, the institute’s CEO, said it was seeing a “worrying trend” of minors testing positive for steroids.
“There appears to be a very cavalier and tolerant attitude towards cheating and doping in school sport. We have had some success with addressing the supply of steroids to school-going athletes with arrests of dealers and suppliers, especially in Gauteng.”
Galant said personal trainers at private health clubs had come under scrutiny “as one of the primary sources of advocating and supplying” steroids.
“You get a personal trainer making in excess of R300 000 to R400 000 a month, not from training but selling steroids.”
Road runner Gladys Lukhwareni was banned for four years in April last year for using an anabolic agent.
Nqoba Mxoli, left, and athlete Victor Hogan used banned drugs.