19th September 2019

Youth rugby doping highlighted by SAIDS annual report

Issues with doping in rugby union, particularly in the youth game, have been highlighted by the 2018/19 Annual Report produced by the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS). Of the 25 sports tested by SAIDS during the year, over 100 tests were only carried out in three sports: Athletics, cycling, and rugby union. Sixteen anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) were recorded for rugby union, 4.68% of the 342 tests carried out in the sport during the year. And a high proportion of those ADRVs involved youth players.

Six of rugby union’s 16 ADRVs involved minors tested at the 2018 Craven Week rugby union tournament, all of which involved anabolic steroids. SAIDS first warned about an alarming trend in doping at schoolboy rugby union during 2015 – a warning that was repeated when its 2017/18 Annual Report was published. Three positives were reported at the same tournament in 2017, four in 2016, five in 2015 and three in 2014. Testing figures from this July’s Craven Week have yet to be published, as the figures included in the 2018/19 Report date from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.

The six positives represents 4.92% of the 122 tests taken at the 2018 Craven Week. The annual youth rugby union tournament would have ranked fourth in terms of ADRVs as a percentage of tests in this year’s ADRV figures, and first if only considering sports in which over 100 tests were performed during the year. Khalid Galant, CEO of SAIDS, said that the Craven Week figures represented a “high tolerance by parents and coaches to doping practices”, in a statement.

Following last year’s trend, bodybuilding reported the highest proportion of ADRVs in comparison to tests, with 65% of the 17 tests carried out in the sport resulting in 11 ADRVs. Shooting, boxing and powerlifting leapfrogged rugby union, which reported the second highest proportion of ADRVs in comparison to tests last year. However, all three sports reported comparatively few tests compared to rugby union, meaning that a single positive can result in a high proportion of ADRVs.

The total proportion of ADRVs as compared to tests was up from last year. In 2017/18, 43 ADRVs were recorded from 1,659 tests (2.77%); compared to 50 ADRVs from 1,619 tests (3.09%) during the 2018/19 year. However, three of the 50 cases are pending, reducing ADRVs down to 2.9% of tests. Of the 25 sports tested by SAIDS, 12 reported an ADRV. 

Included within the SAIDS ADRV figures are four cases where a decision has yet to be rendered; and an acquittal of boxer Ruann Visser, which SAIDS is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Also included is a case alleging that wrestling coach Jan Roets attempted to administer a prohibited substance to an athlete, which SAIDS lists as ‘charges dismissed’ (p44). Presumably, SAIDS is also appealing that decision.

The number of urine tests on cricketers increased from just six during 2017/18 to 59 during 2018/19; and from 52 to 80 in football. No blood tests were performed by SAIDS in either sport. However, these numbers don’t take into account tests performed by international sporting federations, such as the International Cricket Council (ICC) or FIFA. 

During the year, SAIDS worked with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), commonly known as the Hawks. Through this partnership, ‘SAIDS was able to gather substantial evidence against South African cyclist Shan Wilson and distance runner Mamorallo Tjoka from Lesotho, who competes in South Africa, which revealed fraudulent activity designed to undermine and evade doping controls’, read a statement‘Wilson was banned for six years and his fifth place in the 2018 Cape Epic Grand Masters category was expunged. Charges against him included tampering with the doping control process and “trafficking or attempted trafficking in any prohibited substance”.

‘Tjoka’s offence was the second in a 10-year period and she was banned for eight years. Athletics SA was ordered to expunge Tjoka’s records in several races and recover prize money. This included R250,000 [€15,350] for placing second in the women’s category at the Two Oceans Marathon.’

The SAIDS statement also mentions one successful prosecution under the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) programme against professional mountain biker Max Knox. Knox was sanctioned with a four year ban after being unable to explain anomalies in his blood profile. Galant said that investigations into Knox were “triggered in significant part” by whistleblowers.

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