Who will foot the bill?

News that a new schoolboy drug testing programme will be implemented this week was well received, but who will cover the costs?

A new testing programme, launched this week by the SA Institute of Drug-Free Sport, aims to eradicate a growing trend of steroid and drug use among teenagers in schools.

Schoolboy rugby players caught doping could be suspended for three months or more or face expulsion. Good news given that Rapport suggest that 18 out of 62 children independently tested in the past six months had positive results for drugs so dangerous they could lead to death.

Substances that will be prohibited include diuretics (which mask the presence of performance-enhancing drugs by flushing them out of the system), stimulants and steroids.

But this does not come cheaply …

The School Boy Rugby blog reports that the first five tests per school (at a cost of between R2 800 and R3 000 per internationally approved test) will be provided for free, but then it is up to the individual schools as to how many further tests they would like to carry out.

So for a school wanting to test just its 1st XV, it would cost them in the region of R30 000, and that would exclude the fringe players. Not to mention the other sports being played at the school.

Obvious solutions include the provincial unions picking up the tab, or getting a sponsor to cover the costs. But with unions under financial pressure, sponsors getting more difficult to come by, and more fun things like tours and pre-season camps to spend money on, will a great idea be hindered by prohibitive costs?

The following schools are hosting drug testing workshops in their regions:

  • 29 January: Bishops (Cape Town, Western Cape)
  • 29 January: St John’s (Johannesburg, Gauteng)
  • 12 February: Kearsney (Botha’s Hill, KwaZulu-Natal)