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Drugs problem in South Africa starts in schools

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Article Published: Tuesday 16 November 2010

More frequent testing for performance enhancing drugs at schools should be the starting point to rid the professional industry of this plague, sports scientist Dr Ross Tucker said shortly after two Springbok rugby players were tested positive for illegal substances.

"Doping at schoolboy level is a very serious problem and more should be done to prevent it from happening," said Tucker on Tuesday.

The SA Rugby Union (SARU) recently suspended three players who had tested positive for illegal substances, and Tucker fears that these suspensions may only be the tip of the iceberg.

"The reason why doping by the youth is so alarming is because less testing is conducted at their level.

"Players know that an impressive performance when they are 16 or 17 years old could determine their lives, and as is the case in all sporting codes, doping increases as soon as there is money involved."

Griquas under-19 fullback Abrie Marais and Eastern Province's under-19 flyhalf Jonathan Mudrovcic recently received two year bans for the use of norandrosterone (a metabolite of nandrolone and/or a precursor of it).

Free State Cheetahs under-19 flyhalf Johan Goosen - who was named as Craven Week player-of-the-year - received a three-month ban after he tested positive for the same substance that was found in Springboks Chiliboy Ralpelle and Bjorn Basson's blood after the Ireland test.

SARU and the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) have since vowed to increase testing.

"SAIDS has increased the testing of junior players and will continue to do so until we achieve the required result of no adverse analytical findings," SARU medical manager Clint Readhead said in a statement.

Tucker feels that the onus also lies with parents and teachers -- who in some instances administer the illegal substances -- to get involved in the purification process.

"Awareness with regards to the consequences also needs to be explained and this is where coaches and parents play a huge role," said Tucker.

"The sad truth is that coaches and parents often look the other way to ensure that their child or team benefits."

Tucker called for a revised strategy as far as contracting young players are concerned.

He also expressed his concerns relating to the manner in which the best interests of young players often rank second to that of the union they are contracted by.

"The pressure that is being exerted on youngsters in rugby is fundamentally wrong and we need to take cognisance of what is happening to our future stars."

Rugby used to be sport where players of all shapes and sizes were accommodated, but due to the increasing physical demands of the game, physical superiority has become a minimal requirement when potential stars are identified.

It is believed that some rugby unions identify their future players while they are still in primary school which adds further pressure on players to deliver.

"Sport is a lucrative career option for many youngsters and when considering the fame and money involved it comes as no surprise that the youth are getting involved in stimulant abuse.

"With a low likelihood of being caught abusing substances while at school, we should be very concerned."

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