November 27, 2015
Welsh rugby does not have its own drugs problem – the issue lies in the entire country's steroid addiction
It has become something of a tradition. UK Anti-Doping releases the names and cases of the British sportspeople who have failed drugs tests and when the media tots up that so many happen to play rugby in Wales so the hysteria begins.
“Oooh, Welsh rugby has a drugs problem,” they say, waving their hands around and not bothering even to scan for a mitigating factor.
Yes, Wales has a drugs problem, which has largely become a steroids problem. But only by extension is it also a Welsh rugby problem and to deny that is to deny the fact that this area of the United Kingdom is in the grip of a steroid epidemic.
If not tackled soon, this epidemic will herald the generation of pumped-up gorillas who, in the short term, are in danger of heightened blood pressure and aggression level and infections caused by shared needles and, in the long term, risk heart, kidney and liver defects and depression and brain damage.
A recent report described South Wales as “Britain’s steroid capital” and revealed that in one year, the police had made almost 15,000 steroid seizures, making up a remarkable 95 per cent of the Welsh total and amounting to roughly 40 each day, 36 each hour. It is described as a grimly unregulated scene with injections taking place in gyms, supplied by “underground steroid labs”, with the majority being purchased over the internet.
In short, the statistics in the region are so extraordinary that to discover that there are steroid-users now playing in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and the valleys, is like discovering there were people with mullets playing in the Eighties. Be certain, steroids are in fashion. Of course, these anabolics can have a performance-enhancing affect on rugby players that mullets never could (although Mick Skinner swore by his barnet). Yet the media publicity given to the few dozen who have been caught by dope-testers playing, in most instances, unpaid sport, compared to the headlines created by the thousands more who take these drugs purely for image-enhancement is absurd. The imbalance has been viewed this week on BBC Wales. The documentary Rugby – Dirty Steroid Secret? was expertly researched and conducted a thorough investigation as it sought to answer how and why that a country with less than five per cent of Britain’s population can claim 33 per cent of those serving drugs suspensions, with the overwhelming majority playing in union or league. The fault was that it looked at it from the wrong angle and with the wrong priorities. In the grand scheme of things, these drugs are firstly a societal concern and some way after that a sporting one and these UKAD “revelations” do nothing to emphasise that. But then “drugs in sport” is a sexy topic isn’t it, while “contaminated solutions and needles” and what they call “reverse anorexia” are not really, are they? We are talking primarily about amateur players here, some of whom are not even taking the steroids to improve their performance, but to raise self-esteem. And those users who are aiming towards a professional career in rugby are not thinking straight. The number of players who gain contracts by coming through the league pyramid can be counted on one hand. They primarily come through the academies nowadays, who grab them young and condition them to become giant hulks in a carefully regulated environment. But we all know that the boys on the street have nothing but crude stuff such as steroids, the effects of which can be spotted by the naked eye, never mind a blood test. Indeed, there is a distinct whiff of the poor infantry glugging down the meths, while the officers get to the Cognac. Catch the athletes who really matter; and not the deluded dolts who just crave the same six-pack. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/12017162/Welsh-rugby-does-not-have-its-own-drugs-problem-the-issue-lies-in-the-entire-countrys-steroid-addiction.html