School targets for drug dealers

Mon, 21 Jan 2013 12:48
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The problem of forbidden substances still exists for rugby-playing schoolboys in South Africa.

The problem of forbidden substances still exists for rugby-playing schoolboys in South Africa.

According to a report in the Afrikaans weekly Rapport 18 of 62 school pupils tested in the last six months have tested positive for anabolic steroids.

These tests were carried out by an independent tester Riaan de Vries in Gauteng.

At the last Craven Week the Institute for Drug-Free Sport in South Africa (SAIDS), which has been in operation since 1997, tested 47% of the players in the 20 teams (22 players per team) and as a result of the testing two players ware suspended from rugby for two years  for the illegal use of anabolic steroids nandrolone and methandienone.

Testing at schools  is not a simple matter as it needs cooperation with school and parents. At Craven Week, a SARU tournament, parents sign consent  for testing. But it seems that more and more schools are accepting the responsibility of ensuring that their pupils are drug-free.  SAIDS has said that more than a 100 schools in South Africa have a greed to the testing of their pupils. They include top schools, including Paul Roos, Grey College and Affies. Paarl Gim intend having their whole 1st XV tested.

De Vries started his testing when a Durban school contacted him,  after it became suspicious of an increasing number of courier packages were arriving at the school for pupils. The school then approached De Vries about having tests done.

The problems involved in taking these substances are manifold. There is not just the moral problem of cheating and the problem of being found out. There are the costs involved and the physical effects of ingesting such things.

Dr Jon Patricios, the president of the SA Sports Medicine Association with a long involvement in top rugby, told of 20-year-old who died when taking banned substances stopped his breathing. He has seen other problems such as enlarged heart muscles and sexual impotence while Dr Louis Holtzhausen of the University of the Free State warned of the possibility of cancer, kidney failure and diabetes.

Holtzhausen remarked that many of the players who have tested positive are in the second or third teams, believing that the steroids will help them into the 1st XV. Other just want to look good on the beach!

 Khalid Galant, the SAIDS CEO, said: “The testing will occur at any time and will not only be limited to athletes. Hopefully the testing will serve as a deterrent against the growing trend of drug use among school children. The schools testing strategy is no longer just about catching ‘in-competition’ drug cheats, it is now about protecting the health of our children and making them realise the dangers of doping and the importance of responsibilities as a school going athlete.”
 SAIDS also stated that pupils testing positive could be expelled from the school they attend but sanctions will be up to individual schools and their governing bodies. That said, SAIDS intends monitoring sanctions that may be applied to ensure that schools take the matter seriously.
 Very often  players start off taking supplement which Galant says in their pure form are not illegal but also not really advantageous but which are sometimes mixed with banned substances  in a supplement that is not required to put its ingredients on its label.
 Galant said that SAIDS are looking to provide the schools each with five complimentary tests but thereafter the schools will be required to pay - between R2 800 and R3 000 per test which is World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) approved. Samples will be taken in private and sent to the University of the Free State which has a WADA-approved laboratory. The findings will then be reported to the principal whose responsibility it is to inform the parents within 24 hours.
 If the cost of the tests sounds high, so does paying over R700 a week, as was one case, for the substance from dealers is even more expensive - more expensive than even rich boys' pocket money and obliviously requiring the substantial  sponsorship of an adult - a parent or, heaven forbid, a coach at a school. De Vries has a price list of over 40 banned substances and the means of taking them at prices varying from R180 to R1 600. The dealers, if caught, are liable to prison sentences.
 The school campaign will kick off with a national road show next week to explain the protocol on a legal and educational basis at schools, addressing headmasters, heads of sports and school governing bodies around the country from 21 to 31 January 2013. SAIDS, legal representatives and medical representatives will be there to answer any questions.
 Schools hosting the workshops in each region are: Grey High School (Port Elizabeth) – 22 January; Bishops (Western Cape) - 29 January; St John's College (Johannesburg) - 29 January; and Kearsney College (KwaZulu Natal) – 12 February.
 Galant says that testing protocol has been drafted by leading sports attorneys and takes cognisance of the Schools Act (no. 84 of 1996) as well as respecting the jurisdiction and role of headmasters and school governing bodies in the testing and disciplinary process.