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Dr. Paul Wright argues about drug testing/spiking

Published:Tuesday | October 6, 2015 | 10:00 AMDr Paul Wright, Contributor

The World Championships in rugby enters its knockout stage this week, with the main stories focusing on the capitulation of the England team to Australia in a dramatic win-or-go-home match, thus becoming the first host to be eliminated from the competition before the quarter-finals; and the claims by a 20-year-old British player, Daniel Spencer-Tonks, that doping "is widespread" in the sport.

Spencer-Tonks is a former under-15 international player, who was caught using the banned steroid stanozolol in February this year and who received a four-year ban from the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD).

As can be expected, the anti-doping testers in rugby in Britain have trotted out their statistics to reveal that of all the tests done, in and out of competition, only about 10 per cent reveal adverse analytical findings. They also state that more than 50 per cent of their tests are based on information received (target testing).

This contrast ('widespread doping' versus 'less than 10 per cent of tests positive') highlights the belief that a significant percentage of sportsmen (and women) throughout all sports are using dope to cope with the demands of professional sports.

 

tremendous increase

Drug-testing experts have noticed a tremendous increase in the size, strength, and speed of players in international rugby since the sport went professional in 1995. Surveys done in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa have indicated that among the young, steroid use is much greater than 10 per cent.

However, in these countries, there's a paucity of drug testing in schools and clubs, where the temptation to dope is high, due to the reluctance of doping authorities to test in schools, and the relatively little financial resources to extend testing to clubs, not involved in international competition.

In Jamaica, the new and impressive JADCO website gives no indication of testing by sport, so we do not know if rugby is one of the many sports under the scrutiny of the local testing agency. What we do know is that when it comes to doping, there is a very obvious 'Catch 22': Take it seriously and catch people (because there are cheats in every area of human activity), or pretend to take it seriously and catch nobody.

Do the former and you have a drug problem. do the latter and no problem - until a superstar makes a mistake and the edifice of propriety collapses.

British online media have been reporting on the out-of-competition activities of a Jamaican superstar, with a letter writer to a Jamaican newspaper wondering about the possibility of the superstar imbibing 'spiked' drinks at one of the establishments where he has been filmed.

This concern ties in with the allegation in Jamaica that sporting superstars have been known to order take-out food in their own name and personally come to pick it up minutes later.

The national disaster that would accompany a subsequent test that revealed an adverse analytical finding in a test done after a meal spiked by (paid) accomplices of jealous competitors would demand that JADCO-sponsored seminars re the dangers of using banned substances and supplements be mandatory for elite athletes, with serious sanctions for those who consistently 'have other engagements' when these seminars are put on.

No one wants to curtail the fun of any young sports superstar, but the fact that young, rich stars attract friends with ulterior motives cannot and must not be overstressed and ignored. A word to the wise is sufficient.