Schoolboy rugby players are spending thousands of rands on supplements and steroids to “beef up”, according to Dr Shuaib Manjra, chairman of the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport.
“They are used for performance enhancement in schools, where sport has high priority, particularly power sports like rugby, for which coaches place emphasis on the size of the player.”
The institute yesterday said a 17-year-old boy was facing a two-year ban after testing positive for the banned steroid nandrolone at the under-18s Craven Week rugby festival in July in Port Elizabeth.
Manjra maintains that, though the 17-year-old was the only player to test positive, it did not mean the rest were drug-free.
“Some of them might have stopped taking steroids weeks before the competition in order to pass the drug tests during the tournament,” he said.
Over half of the players at the tournament were tested for steroids.
Manjra said that it was “prohibitive” to test every athlete taking part in Craven Week because testing a sample cost R1500.
Nandrolone is said to help repair muscles, make athletes bigger and stronger, and increase aggression.
Former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam, former Dutch midfield maestro Edgar Davids, and Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Akhtar have all tested positive for nandrolone at some stage in their careers.
SA Rugby Union medical chief Clint Readhead said a lot of progress had been made in stamping out doping.
He said drug testing had also been introduced at the under-16s Grant Khomo Week and the under-18s National Academy Week.
The rugby union and the Institute for Drug-Free Sport are talking to the Department of Education about allowing the institute to test in schools.
Readhead said: “[The rugby union] is always concerned about the fact that school kids might want to use anabolic steroids. Our current approach is to have a rigorous testing programme at the elite level to ensure a clean and level playing environment.
“This also serves as an example to the young kids that professional players do not use steroids.”
Education about the dangers of doping and use of supplements in sport began at the under-13 Craven Week.
The 17-year-old pupil, who cannot be named because he is a minor, might have damaged his chances of being discovered by eager scouts for the provincial unions looking for the next Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana.
Manjra said an external and independent counselling service is offered to athletes found guilty of doping.
The teenager will know his fate by November, when a tribunal will decide on his punishment.
There was no comment from the Department of Basic Education at the time of going to print.