Na­ture of Craven Week drugs ‘a con­cern’

Sunday Times - - Sport Rugby - By KHANYISO TSHWAKU

● The SA In­sti­tute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) is con­cerned about the na­ture of the drugs used by the six school­boys who tested pos­i­tive at Craven Week.

Saids CE Khalid Galant said the drugs used by the rugby play­ers and how they were taken have raised se­ri­ous ques­tions about the safety checks and how the drugs were ac­quired.

Saids this week re­leased its an­nual re­port and said 122 play­ers were tested be­fore and dur­ing the un­der-18 pro­vin­cial schools rugby tour­na­ment that took place from July 9 to 14 at Paarl Boys High in the Western Cape.

“The con­cern for us is not just the six pos­i­tive tests, but the qual­i­ta­tive na­ture of the six pos­i­tives.

“Each one of them tested pos­i­tive for a cock­tail of steroids and that’s the ma­jor con­cern. These aren’t just steroids you get through a con­tam­i­nated sports sup­ple­ment. They could be through am­poules or pills. The other con­cern is that they could be in­jected. Who’s in­ject­ing these kids and how are the nee­dles dis­posed of be­cause that be­comes a pub­lic health risk with re­gard to the ex­pos­ing of nee­dles on school premises,” Galant said.

“In search and seizures, the peo­ple that have been ar­rested are peo­ple with crim­i­nal records or are from the crim­i­nal un­der­world. Are those peo­ple se­ri­ously in­ter­act­ing with school kids? Those are the se­ri­ous con­cerns we have. Are those peo­ple com­ing onto school premises? Some of the kids we’ve in­ter­viewed con­fessed they buy some of their steroids from fel­low learn­ers.”

With school rugby fall­ing out­side the South African Schools Act am­bit from a drug-test­ing per­spec­tive, Galant said there were not strong de­ter­rents but plenty of ed­u­ca­tion on drug-test­ing at the var­i­ous pro­vin­cial rugby weeks.

The peo­ple that have been ar­rested are peo­ple with crim­i­nal records Khalid Galant

CE of the SA In­sti­tute for Drug-Free Sport

“While there’s scope for drug-test­ing in the Schools Act, it’s dif­fer­ent to sports drugtest­ing be­cause it has to be ini­ti­ated by the head­mas­ter, and the head­mas­ter can only ini­ti­ate it based on sus­pi­cion. Those laws are also writ­ten to pro­tect the learn­ers, but the is­sue is not the polic­ing or ed­u­ca­tion with re­gard to drugs be­cause they know the pro­to­cols and there’s a rea­son­able chance of be­ing tested at pro­vin­cial weeks,” Galant said.

“The de­ter­rent ef­fect doesn’t work that well and I main­tain that it’s more of a val­ues thing be­cause when kids are caught, par­ents and coaches are im­pli­cated. There’s a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors and you can’t just drill it down to risky be­hav­iour or only the par­ents are im­pli­cated. Schools rugby has be­come so com­mer­cialised and the stakes are high, but the prob­lem can’t be at­trib­uted to one sin­gle fac­tor.”

Galant said the SA Schools Rugby As­so­ci­a­tion, chaired by Glen­wood Prepara­tory School head­mas­ter Noel In­gle, has been help­ful in open­ing up school derby days and fes­ti­vals for drug-test­ing.

In­gle said the re­sults were dev­as­tat­ing and even though they un­der­stand the wide­spread na­ture of dop­ing, get­ting to grips with it was dif­fi­cult.

“School­boys aren’t quite aware that they’re play­ing with their health and if there’s col­lu­sion with par­ents, then it’s even more dev­as­tat­ing. We have ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes and we think one of the mea­sures will have to be in­creased test­ing. There’s al­ready talks be­tween SA Rugby and Sasra in terms of look­ing at meth­ods for test­ing. This will form part of our an­nual gen­eral meet­ing dis­cus­sions in Cape Town,” In­gle said.

“I don’t want to speak from an emo­tive point without em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence be­cause that’s what we need to com­bat this mat­ter. We have meet­ings ev­ery year and at ev­ery tour­na­ment about the dan­gers of dop­ing, but clearly there are some other kids who don't un­der­stand, be­lieve or who are too naïve. Maybe it’s the pres­sures that are mounted on them to per­form and I don’t want to be naïve and think that’s not part of the prob­lem.”

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