Craven Week schoolboy tests positive for doping

A 17-year-old boy’s doping control test has tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid, nandrolone, following the 2012 Craven Week schools rugby tournament held in Nelson Mandela Bay in July, and the boy could face a ban of up to two years from sport, according to the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS).

Dr Shuaib Manjra, Chairman of Institute for Drug-Free Sport said the boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, will face an independent tribunal in two months time.

The boy was tested along with about 51% of participants at the Craven Week schools rugby tournament in July.

Manjra says that the standard sentence is a minimum ban of two years and not less than a year, where there are mitigating circumstances. “It will be up to the tribunal to rule on the appropriate sanction,” he said.

It is bad news for the boy that tested positive, who could lose out on his dream of a career in rugby and his chances of being recruited by the Provincial Unions who talent spot during school tournaments, should he be banned.

While the majority of the tests taken at Craven Week came back clean, this did not mean the other players were not doping, stressed Manjra.

“Some of them may have stopped taking steroids weeks before the competition, in order to pass the drug tests during the tournament,” he said.

Manjra said the issue of steroid abuse in schools is known to be widespread and this was why the Institute has been very aggressive with its education campaigns throughout the year, and in the week leading up to Craven Week.

“Our education team has had many anti-doping education sessions with schools and the respective provincial schools rugby teams,” he said.

“The information has been unequivocal that school rugby players can expect to be tested. We also emphasized the risk of taking sports supplements, many of which contain banned substances like anabolic steroids, pro hormones and stimulants, which are disguised under labeled ingredients such as ‘testosterone booster’ or ‘growth-hormone accelerator’, which are used on the packaging of products.”

Manjra said that steroids are dangerous, as they can cause abnormal organ growth and function; change the endocrine system and mess up a perfectly normal hormone profile of a growing adolescent.

On a positive note, he said that media coverage on the SAIDS ‘I Play Fair. Say No! to doping’ educational campaign, aimed at tackling doping in sport; spreading the message of ethics, fair-play and anti-doping in sport, had played a large role in generating more awareness around doping in schools and this may have also served as a deterrent.

He points out that ‘in competition’ is only one of the strategies used as part of SAIDS doping control strategy.

“This type of testing has its limits since athletes can ensure that they are ‘clean’ in the lead up to competitions,” he explained. “They can still engage in systematic doping in the off-season while reaping the benefits of this dangerous life-style choice in the competition season.”

While there are constraints in terms of the Schools Act pertaining to out-of-competition, no-notice testing, Manjra says that SAIDS, together with headmasters and school governing bodies have developed a creative strategy that stays true to the Schools Act, while still tackling the disturbing problem of doping among learners. A programme that combines education and testing is to be rolled out in subscribing schools in the near future.