The SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport has announced the sentencing of two teenagers who tested positive for banned anabolic steroids at Craven Ruby Week in June 2011. The Institute has also announced it intends starting a major clamp down on doping teenagers, with ‘out of competition’ testing in schools, where there is ‘justified suspicion’ from April 2012.

This is according to SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport’s CEO, Khalid Galant, who says that the two teenagers who tested positive for the anabolic steroids, Nandrolone and Methandienone, while participating in the Craven Week schools rugby tournament last year, cannot be named because they are minors. An independent anti-doping tribunal imposed two year bans on both teenagers.

Galant says that the Craven Week positive drug tests were not a complete surprise as recent research and intelligence information continues to indicate a high prevalence of doping behaviors among teenagers in schools. “Doping in schools is not exclusive to rugby or to scholar athletes,” he says. “A large number of teenagers are participating in doping activities predominantly for the aesthetic appeal of a bigger and more muscular body.”

While generally statistics reflect a 100% increase in doping offences, Galant says that doping in schools was now beyond serious. “With the widespread availability and use of sports supplements that contain banned substances like anabolic steroids, pro hormones and stimulants, it is no longer just a doping problem but a public health issue,” he adds.

“The Institute has sent correspondence to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to seek clarity on the South African approach to in-school testing so that we can proceed without falling foul of international sport regulations.”

He says that most of the schools have welcomed the prospect of testing, and that the initiative has been spearheaded by the schools. “The first phase of testing will target schools with strong sports traditions, where any teenager can be tested and where they could face a wide range of sanctions, including expulsion from school, if tested positive,” Galant explains.

He says that parents need to realise the risks and consequences associated with their children taking banned substances. “You wouldn’t inject your child with heroin so why on earth would you, as a parent, condone the use of banned steroids, which are just as dangerous,” he adds.

He points out that among other things, steroids can cause abnormal organ growth and function; change the endocrine system and mess up a perfectly normal hormone profile of a growing adolescent.

“Many sports supplements contain banned substances disguised under labeled ingredients such as ‘testosterone booster’ or ‘growth-hormone accelerator’, which are used on the packaging of products,” he says.

Galant says that school children who dope are being very short sighted. “If they test positive and receive a two year ban, in the case of school rugby their playing career is severely curtailed and those looking to pursue rugby as a career, decrease their chances considerably of being recruited by any of the Provincial Unions who talent spot during school tournaments.”

To coincide with the testing initiative, the Institute is also stepping up its youth educational efforts with a school road show, which kicks off this month to communicate its efforts around its ‘I Play Fair – Say NO! To Doping’ initiative; a platform which is aimed at tackling doping in sport by spreading the message of ethics, fair-play and anti-doping in sport.