Drug prevention at Craven Week

Tue, 17 Jul 2012 15:43
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Two issues, unknown in the distant past, have caused upset at Craven Week - the issue of performance-enhancing drugs and the issue of overage players.

Two issues, unknown in the distant past, have caused upset at Craven Week - the issue of performance-enhancing drugs and the issue of overage players.

The sad things about the use of performance-enhancing and the presence of overage players is the destruction of trust.

The Craven Week - and Academy Week, the Grant Khomo Week, the LSEN Craven Week and the Under-13 Craven Week - have all fallen under the aegis of SARU, and SARU has taken steps to heal the problems of the past.

Clint Readhead, a University of Cape Town graduate and a former physiotherapist to the Springboks, is in charge of SARU's medical department and its activities.

Readhead views the problem as much more than just a rugby problem. There are other forces at play which also persuade a boy to ingest potentially harmful drugs that contribute to an aspect of physical development. Vanity is certainly one of them.

It is important for people to realise that there are substances that are not wrong because they are banned but which are banned because they are wrong and potentially damaging.

The parents of all players attending the SARU Youth Weeks are required to sign a consent form giving permission for the South African Institute of Drug Free Sport to do testing. This year there was also testing at the Under-18 Academy Week and the Under-16 Grant Khomo Week for the first time.

Readhead says that 220 players, 50% of the participants, were tested and the results of the testing has not yet become known. (They have back the results of the IRB's tests during the Junior World Championships and none of the South Africans tested positive.) At last year's Craven Week 47% were tested and two of those tested turned out positive for the use of anabolic steroids

But the drug-free programme went far further than testing at this year's Craven Week. Finding culprits is only part of the task. Education is more important and if successful would hopefully mean that less testing is needed at the Youth Weeks. SARU, via the BokSmart Rugby Safety programme, also educates all coaches involved in the game of rugby on the dangers of drugs in sport, the high risk associated with the use of supplements and the consequences of players testing positive for a banned substance. Readhead believes that the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport is not only a rugby problem. He agrees that rugby has to take responsibility in trying to eradicate the use of drugs in sport and ensure that they playing field is an even one for all but feels that teachers and parents have just as an important role to play.

Clearly there is adult complicity in the process of acquiring the drugs. They are expensive. This suggests that there is family responsibility as well. Readhead says: "It is vital that you take a keen interest in what your son is doing and that you aim to promote good ethical values at all times."

Education was rolled out at all the Youth Week tournaments this year. At the Under-18 Craven Week each team spent 45 minutes with the education crew and were exposed, amongst other issues, to the dangers and consequences of using drugs as well as the Doping Control process. Every player was given literature on the subject matter and then preformed an on-line computer quiz. Readhead said that the idea behind the quiz was to indicate to players that the issues around drugs in sport are not simple and that every player had to take responsibility for his actions.

Players were also informed that the reason SARU adopted such a serious approach to the use of drugs in sport is that there are serious health risks associated with the use of drugs, and that it is opposed the ethics and ethos of rugby which demands hard work, commitment and honesty of its players. But above all else the use of performance-enhancing drugs is blatant cheating.