Cape Town, 20 September, 2011 – Final total doping figures for the period April 2010 – March 2011 show a shocking 178% increase in overall doping in South Africa, with anabolic steroids as the drug of choice for the year, translating into 42% of the total number of positives.

This is according to the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport’s latest figures, published in its annual report released this week.

Drug-Free Sport’s chairman, Dr Shuaib Manjra, says that the period under review has seen a significant increase in the number of adverse analystical findings (AAF) with 51 positive tests compared to 18 to the year before. Rule violations resulted in 24 sanctions, with 9 cases still to be finalised.

He says that the increase in doping stats is shocking and can largely be attributed to the widespread availability of sports supplements that contain banned substances like anabolic steroids, pro hormones and stimulants.

“We have embarked on a huge drive to warn athletes about the dangers of taking supplements that have poor scientific evidence of benefits, and present the athlete with a high risk of contamination with prohibited substances,” he explains. “Other than scaling up our awareness and education programmes over the next year, the priority for us remains to have supplements regulated and we are engaging with key role players to make this happen.”

He points out that while athletes have to face the consequences of their actions, the Institute also needs to show compassion with real regard for the health and well being of the athlete.

“In response to the surge of doping cases, many of the affected athletes suffer severe emotional strain and risk being socially ostracised for bringing their sport into disrepute,” Manjra says.

In this regard, the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport has announced that the agency will offer counseling to dopers in order to assist them with coping skills during their suspension. The agency has signed an agreement with ICAS, a global counseling provider to assist the athletes.

He points out that when athletes test positive for banned substances, the announcement may come as an emotional shock, especially since they are facing a potential ban from sport and possibly being ostracised from not only the sport but also their social circle.

“Their lives may also change dramatically, especially if they are professional athletes where loss of income can be major setback to the standard of living the person is accustomed to,” he explains.

Internationally, there have been athletes have suffered from depression and committed suicide a few months after testing positive for banned substances. He says that he would not like to see a similar occurrence in South Africa.

Drug-Free Sport acknowledges the high pressure environment of professional sport. “Our education initiatives constantly emphasize the importance of ethics and decision making skills for athletes,” he adds. “While we continue to enforce the anti-doping regulations, we also want to apply these rules within the context of corrective rehabilitation. The athlete still has to face up to the consequences of his/her decisions and can be counseled through the banning period to be able to return to sport or to continue a healthy lifestyle outside of sport.”

“The Institute is a regulatory agency established to enforce the anti-doping rules in sport and while we will continue our unwavering commitment to apply the anti-doping rules within the regulatory framework of the World Anti-doping Code, one of the core principles under-pinning anti-doping rules is protecting the health of the athlete. We are extending this ‘protection’ to include the emotional well-being of our athletes who have made mistakes.”

Drug-Free Sport was introduced to the ICAS program during the recent collaborative drug-awareness program with SA Rugby. The partnership between rugby and ICAS focused on the well-being of professional rugby players where they can tap into counseling services at any time.

“Every athlete who tests positive for banned substances will receive a brochure with information on the ICAS program,” Manjra explains. “It is then up to the athlete to take up the opportunity and seek counseling.”