An increase of 100% in performance-enhancing drug offences among adolescent athletes and the adult population prompted the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (Saids) to launch its “I play fair — say no to doping” initiative in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“Our latest positive doping stats for the period April 1 2010 to March 30 2011 show a doubling to 50 positive tests from 19 for the year before,” said chairperson of Saids Shuaib Manjra.
Manjra said the rise could be attributed to the widespread availability of supplements which contained banned substances like anabolic steroids, pro-hormones and stimulants.
The institute had also increased the number of people tested and did more intelligent and targeted testing.
“The advertising and marketing of these products is widespread and prey on the sporting performance anxieties of athletes — with the products being promoted as an instant solution to improved performance,” said Manjra.
“We will also be holding a Sports Supplement Symposium on June 25 to provide a comprehensive framework for coaches and athletes to be able to make informed decisions on their nutritional strategies.”
Manjra said the issue of doping was not only related to sport but it was increasingly becoming a public health issue and the use of performance enhancing drugs among adolescents had become a major source of concern for Saids.
Getting face time
The launch of this initiative follows recent revelations in the Sunday Times of widespread use of illegal steroids in some of the country’s top schools.
“With the recently acknowledged use of steroids in schools, we will also step up this initiative around the up and coming Craven rugby weeks, with an increased awareness drive and increased drug testing,” he said.
“We will ensure we get face time with adolescent rugby players.”
One of the core components of the campaign would be to put ethics back into sport in the country and the campaign will focus on deterrence, detection and prosecution.
Manjra said the institute was also making huge efforts to clamp down on criminal syndicates who control the trafficking of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in South Africa.
The initiative had been endorsed by the Department of Sport and Recreation as well as the South African Rugby Union (Saru) who was the first federation to endorse the campaign.
Manjra said the institute was pushing for all sports federations to come on board, endorse the campaign and get involved with helping to spread the anti-doping message while sportsmen like Springbok wing Bryan Habana will help spread the message.
Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula announced that June 18 would, from this year onwards, be officially recognised as “I play fair — say no to doping” special awareness day.
The campaign will be officially launched in Pretoria when Mbalula attends the Super Rugby match between the Bulls and the Sharks on Saturday.
Deputy Sports and Recreation Minister Gert Oosthuizen will lead the ceremonial procession at the Bloemfontein clash between the Cheetahs and the Stormers, also on Saturday. — Sapa