Top school anti-doping model to be implemented

The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport believe its school anti-doping programme will be affordable and revolutionary.

Saids is currently busy with a nationwide tour in attempt to get most schools on board with this initiative. In order for this anti-doping programme to be successful, it needs the buy-in from the schools.

There are currently no official rules and regulations that overlook doping at school level, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) code.

This is a major issue, considering that 5-18% of South African athletes at school level in all sports are believed to be doping. Last year, 18 out of 62 children (29%) independently tested in the past six months had positive results for drugs so dangerous they could lead to death.

In recent years, there have been numerous reports on South African junior athletes, including rugby players, testing positive for banned substances. Doping at school level is also an issue around the world, especially in the USA.

Now Saids will run a new model, which is set to cut down on doping and solve all issues that restrict doping tests at school level. These issues include parent and school consent, and hefty costs.

This programme is set to take on 60-70 schools (mostly the top sporting institutions in the country) and will launch in February. The official list will be published in March. All participants will be reviewed on an annual basis and more schools will join each year.

Saids chairman Shuaib Manjra said Wada would launch this anti-doping programme in other international schools systems if it proved to be successful.

‘We are the first country in the world to run a school anti-doping programme like this one. So we are very excited,’ Manjra told keo.co.za’s Schoolboy Derby. ‘All sports and genders will fall under this programme. If you look at the last doping incident, the sport under the spotlight was rowing, so we will have to look at all codes.

‘The important part of this model is the buy-in from the schools. We’ve travelled to PE and Cape Town, and will have two more conferences in Johannesburg and Durban, as we encourage schools to sign on.’

It’s believed that internationally-approved doping tests can cost between R2 500 and R3 000 each. But Saids has already established plans to make testing more affordable. These can take place at drug rehab centers.

‘We will receive funding from the Department of Sport and Recreation and the National Lotto Fund,’ said Manjra. ‘Each school that signs on with us will get its first five tests free of charge. And to sign on to this programme costs nothing.

‘Saids is also looking to make each test more affordable, and will try to cut costs down to a range of R1 000 to R1 500 each.’

If an athlete fails a test, his/her respective school will be in charge of sanctions. But Saids will guide all institutions during this process.

Saids will also encourage schools not to implement heavy punishment as it aims to educate all guilty parties.

‘We don’t want junior athletes to be taken out of sport forever. Because they are still young, they should have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, which will help them make the right decisions in future.’

By Gareth Duncan