There’s a piece running on BBC Sport this week about an alleged epidemic of steroid use in South Africa’s schoolboy rugby. Written by Mike Henson, it tries to create the impression that our schools and coaches are complicit in the promotion of steroid use.
But it all falls apart when you read the detail. The article tries to suggest that the annual Craven Week youth tournament is at the centre of it all but then Henson undermines his own argument by reporting:
“Flick to page 40 of the South African Institute of Drug-Free Sport's (Saids) latest annual report and 'Name redacted (minor)' appears six times in the annual list of doping offenders.
“All were teenage rugby players who tested positive for steroids at the 2018 edition of Craven Week. It was no blip. The event has turned into one of the most reliable hunting grounds for anti-doping officers.
“Three players tested positive at the 2017 event, four in 2016, five in 2015 and three in 2014. All for steroids.”
Right. What he doesn’t tell you is that Craven Week typically has 20 teams in action every year. Assuming 23 players per team, that’s 460 players, meaning that it’s a tiny percentage that have been caught doping. The fact is that the players are tested. That’s not the case elsewhere in the world.
Indeed, as Mark O'Beirne responds to the article on Twitter:
“Interesting article, but would be hard to believe that it's only happening in SA. Just it's being caught there and subject to lots of testing. Ireland doesn't test schools rugby. The England figures mentioned in article don't specify age brackets.”
But again, we digress. Henson also tries to besmirch the good names of some Springbok players. His story centres around Salmon van Huyssteen, a teenager who was caught at the 2018 Craven Week and banned for two years, so he features the Bulls under-18 team of that year, which included RG Snyman and Ivan van Zyl.
The whole thing strikes us as a transparent attempt to take the gloss off the comprehensive Springbok win at the 2019 World Cup. So, our response to Mike Henson? 32-12. Suck it up you bloody whinger.