Support for new schools steroids testing drive

The ground-breaking drive by the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) to start testing for steroid use in high schools in KwaZulu-Natal has been warmly welcomed by top rugby schools in the province, and enjoys the firm backing of the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union.

SAIDS announced last month that a world-first programme of steroids testing has been launched in high schools in KwaZulu-Natal to deal with the problem of steroid use. The programme starts immediately and has been strongly backed by the Discovery SharkSmart programme at 20 top KwaZulu-Natal schools.

The SAIDS initiative has the full support of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), which sees it as a pilot programme to test for steroids at a junior level, where the complexities of protecting the rights and identities of minors adds numerous challenges to the drive to test for steroid use at schools.

The SAIDS programme is effectively and “opt-in” scheme that relies on the schools to nominate pupils to be tested purely for steroid use, with the cost of the screening being borne by SAIDS.

“We are at an advantage in KwaZulu-Natal because the Discovery SharkSmart programme has strong structures in place that are committed to dealing with the scourge of steroid use in high schools,” said SAIDS CEO Khalid Galant at the programme launch at Kearsney College.

“We want to do ‘smart testing’ based on intelligence from the schools,” he said.

Discovery SharkSmart director Dr. Glen Hagemann said the sanction guideline for any pupil testing positive for a steroid was a year ban from all sport and possible expulsion. He added that the imposition of sanctions will be left to each school to administer, but that SAIDS would closely monitor these processes and the sanctions handed down.

“There might be cases where deviations from the recommended sanctions can be justified,” said Hagemann. “In the case of a pupil who does not play sport, then a sport ban would be pointless and, say, a sanction of community service might be more appropriate.”

The move has been firmly endorsed by the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union, saying that concrete steps to combat steroid use at high schools was a priority.

“We have known for some time now that steroid use at high schools is a problem, and we warmly welcome this initiative from SAIDS,” said KZNRU CEO Pete Smith.

“It is a sensitive and delicate issue, and we urge the schools to take it seriously,” he added. “The nature of this SAIDS programme relies on the integrity and conscientiousness of the high schools to be successful, and we urge the school heads and coaches to give this programme their full support.” Top rugby schools have unanimously backed the programme, and unanimous support has come from all the schools affiliated to the Discovery SharkSmart programme, for whom support of the SAIDS steroids testing is now a prerequisite to their annual accreditation.

“Glenwood High School supports the SAIDS initiative as it complements our school’s healthy living programme while also supporting the belief that we have in playing fair in all aspects of life,” said Glenwood High School headmaster Trevor Kershaw.

Parents wanting to find out more about the SAIDS testing, and the associated drive to replace supplement use with correct sport diets, are welcome to attend the regional roadshows that will take place at Hilton College on March 12 at 6pm, at Northwood on April 18 and at Hillcrest High on May 2. For more info please contact Pippa Rowe on prowe@sharksmedical.co.za or 031 312 7506.

More information can be found at www.sharksmart.co.za

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