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

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.”

Pic­ture: Gallo Images

Road run­ner Gla­dys Lukhwareni was banned for four years in April last year for us­ing an an­abolic agent.

Pic­tures: Gallo Images

Nqoba Mx­oli, left, and ath­lete Vic­tor Hogan used banned drugs.

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