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Is there a doping problem in SA Rugby?

This question is nothing new, accusations are always floating that the South African players are using performance enhancing substances. The Punt-it team has noticed a lot of this chatter on our social media platforms in recent months, so we decided to take an in depth look at the whole system in place, anything from who is being tested and when, to what substances are being used and the disciplinary procedures faced when one returns a positive test amongst other intricacies.


There is no doubt that South African rugby is all about the physical side of the game. One need only hear Rassie or Jacques telling the boys to f*&#k them up physically to understand how simple, yet effective the Springbok plan is. This filters down to the domestic teams and it is generally accepted that when playing the SA sides, you're going to scrum, maul and filed high balls a lot. These are our strengths and deviating from them only leads to what transpired in the Alister Coetzee era.


The reason the physical game is so engrained in SA rugby is largely due to the fact that we continuously produce absolutely large athletes. Just look at the likes of Etzebeth, RG Snyman, Duane, Ox, Bongi and Pieter-Steph and you will understand that these players have athleticism deeply entwined in their genetics. The players don't need to use substances for that. A healthy supply of biltong, braai's and sunlight goes a long way and when combined with the level of dedication these players put into their training, well you can see the results for yourself.


Players at the top levels of the sport, from Currie Cup to URC and the Boks are subjected to rigorous testing procedures. They have to remain up to date on the whereabouts list, they get tested in and out of competition and are supervised throughout the testing process. There are very strict protocols in place and the system is not easily cheated. If there truly was a problem, WADA and SAIDS would definitely have picked up on it.


Add to this the fact that doping violations are dealt with in an accusatory system where a player is guilty until proven innocent and strict liability is applied, one takes on a huge risk if they attempt to abuse substances. With the starting point for a violation coming in at a 4 year playing ban, it would make no sense to say there is a wide spread issue in the country.


The fact that we are so physical during 80 minutes makes it easy for rugby's keyboard warriors to quickly throw steroids into the mix. Doing so, without the facts though makes one look foolish. After chatting to Shane, I can say with confidence that South African Rugby is not an outlier when it comes to positive tests returned.



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