Doping culture on the rise in SA rugby, a worry

CAUGHT OUT: Springbok rugby player Aphiwe Jantjie has been in hot water several times on doping counts                Picture: SOURCED

Anti-doping education plays a pivotal role in promoting the values of ethics and fair play in sport, thereby protecting the “spirit of sport” and true sportsmanship.

Using drugs to improve performance in sport may lead to an athlete being banned, but it may also harm their general health. Sporting authorities have banned many drugs and other substances, not just because they might give an athlete an unfair advantage, but also because of the wider health risks. Hence there are bodies like the World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA) and, on our shores, the South Africa Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) which regulates doping offences and does random doping tests on athletes.

Of late the Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi case has dominated the headlines. Dyantyi failed a drug test after a sample was tested at a national camp in early July 2019, with three banned substances found in his system. He faces a four-year ban. The independent tribunal panel adjourned his latest hearing after two days, with the outcome to be made known in a few weeks.

The 26-year-old has played 13 Tests for the Springboks and was the 2018 World Rugby Breakthrough player.

Earlier this year, former Springbok and Sharks hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle was handed an eight-year ban after testing positive for banned anabolic substance Zenanol during an out-of-competition random test at Kings Park in January 2019. It was Chiliboy’s third positive test.

The doping culture is as rife in schoolboy rugby as ever, with the pressures of playing first team rugby and winning at all costs. Schools are reluctant to test in the same way that SA Rugby does. The only time the governing body does test effectively is at Craven Week and the results of that testing in the past few years make for rather sobering reading. What needs to be addressed is what gives rise to the problem, which is the increasing over-professionalisation of the country’s school rugby and the pressure brought to bear by parents and coaches on schoolboys to win and succeed at all costs. There is also a mistaken impression among parents that professional rugby is a conduit to becoming wealthy. That is true for only a tiny percentage who do make it.

There are several high-profile rugby players who have tested positive for banned substances. Johan Ackerman, the former Bulls, Sharks and Springbok lock and former Lions and Gloucester coach, served a two-year ban, starting in 1997, for using the steroid, Nandrolone.

Bennie Nortje, the former Lions scrumhalf was handed a two-year ban for using testosterone in 1997. Former Western Province and Springbok prop Cobus Visagie tested positive for Nandrolone in 2000.

Johan Goosen, one-time Cheetahs and Springbok flyhalf, used Methylhexanamine in 2010 when he was still an U-19 player in Bloemfontein. He served three months because of the indiscretion. Herkie Kruger of the Sharks was banned for two years for testing positive for Nandrolone in 2003.

Monde Hadebe, also from the Sharks, was found guilty of using two separate steroids, Oxandrolone and Stanozolol, in 2016 and was handed a four-year ban. Steam Pienaar served a two-year ban in 2016. Then there is Gerbrandt Grobler who served two years and Ashley Johnson who served a six-month ban.

In other sporting codes sportspeople in doping cases include Jamie Bloem, Francois Botha, Okkert Brits, Surita Febbraio, Ali Funeka, David George, Burger Lambrechts, Mbulelo Mabizela, Simon Magakwe, Luvo Manyonga, Offentse Mogawana, Hezekiel Sepeng, Amanda Sister, Arthur Zwane, Roland Schoeman, Carin Horn, Victor Hogan and Thandani Ntshumayelo.

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