Within the space of a few days in November 2010, three leading South African sportsmen (two rugby players and a cricketer) tested positive for substances prohibited by the World Anti Doping Association (WADA). Was this doping to enhance performance, ignorance on the part of the players and/or their medical teams or contaminated products? Whatever the case, these players’ sporting careers have suffered serious damage. As a parent of sporting children you have an obligation and responsibility to educate yourselves and your children regarding not only the illegality in a sporting sense of taking banned substances, but also the dangers to their health that exist by going this route.
Prof Tim Noakes, South Africa’s renowned Sports Medicine expert, has questioned the seriousness with which the authorities are pursuing the rugby players’ case explaining that if they had wanted to enhance their performance they would have chosen very different substances not the stimulant that was found in their system. He believes the authorities should be pursuing those players that are taking steroids rather than players who inadvertently test positive for substances found in medication. And Dr Ross Tucker from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa warns of the increasing use of steroids in schoolboy rugby.
Whatever the merits of these cases, the message for parents is that it is not difficult to return a positive test for a banned substance and that lack of knowledge is not a legitimate excuse. Whilst it is best that sportsmen and women playing at a senior competitive level should stay clear of supplements, it is even more important that youngsters are discouraged from using them to avoid physiological and psychological risk. The South African supplement industry is poorly regulated and contaminated substances can easily jeopardize a player’s future. Is it worth the risk?
It is indeed a complicated subject and we will explore performance enhancing substances in more depth in future editions. In the meantime, say NO to drugs of any kind and watch your children in confidence From the Stands.