Doping control tests have revealed that school boys as young as 17 participating in the recent Craven Week schools rugby tournament, have tested positive for anabolic steroids and could face bans of up to two years from sport.
This is according to Khalid Galant, CEO of the Institute for Drug-Free Sport, which has obtained the results of their drug tests carried out on 47% of participants during the schools rugby tournament at the end of June 2011.
Galant says that four boys tested positive for the banned steroids. “Out of the four positives, two results also showed high levels of testosterone and these tests have been sent off for further analysis to Germany to verify whether the levels of testosterone are due to external sources, or naturally produced by the body. Only if the tests confirm that indeed the source of testosterone is from outside of the athlete’s body, will a doping case be opened.”
He says that one positive result is a lot, therefore four positives translates into an 8.5% positive result, which is a serious cause for concern. He also stresses that even though the other the majority of athletes ‘competed clean’ this does not mean that they are not doping as some of them may have stopped taking steroids weeks before the competition, in order to pass the drug tests during the tournament. “Also, only a sample of athletes were tested so these figures would undoubtedly be higher if a bigger sample had been done,” he adds.
He cites one example of one boy’s test that revealed a low concentration of nandrolone, but the levels were too low to open a case according to the doping rules and regulations.
Zero tolerance for doping in teen sports
The Institute for Drug-Free Sport has been very aggressive with its education campaigns in the months leading up to Craven Week Rugby to not only warn athletes of the dangers of doping but to remind them that tests will be carried at school level.
The boys, who cannot be named because they are minors, will face an independent tribunal in two months time. Each anti-doping tribunal hearing is unique irrespective of the substances involved, as there are circumstances that the tribunal may hear in mitigation, which will influence the decision on the ruling of a sanction.
“The standard sentence is a minimum ban of two years and not less than a year where there are mitigating circumstances,” says Galant. “It will be up to the tribunal to rule on the appropriate sanction.”
He says that if these children receive bans, they can kiss their school rugby careers goodbye. “The Craven Week school tournament is known to be the hunting ground for talent scouts looking to find best new players for their provinces.”
He says that the issue of steroid abuse in schools is known to be widespread and the Institute for Drug-Free Sport is increasing its efforts with regard to education, regulation and cracking down on drug trafficking of steroids in light of the shocking statistics that reflect a 100% increase in doping offences in South African sport.
With regard to education, apart from using testing as a deterrent, the Institute recently launched its ‘I Play Fair – Say NO! to Doping’ initiative, aimed at tackling doping in sport; spreading the message of ethics, fair-play and anti-doping in sport. Schools and young athletes are a key target group for this campaign.
Teens warned about using sports supplements
Galant says that if he has one message to parents, it is to treat sports supplements with extreme caution because many of them contain banned substances.
“Doping is a short-cut that will not only see athletes getting caught but is also dangerous to the athlete’s health,” he explains. “Just because you can easily buy a sports supplement at any grocery store or pharmacy does not mean that the supplement does not contain any banned steroids. Parents have to be more circumspect about the ingredients of these supplements and especially when words such as “testosterone booster” or “growth-hormone accelerator” are used on the packaging of products.”
(Press release, August 2011)